Dennis Wise, 41, of Baltimore sold drugs and shoplifted to support a 10-year heroin habit; he went to jail or prison, and went right back on them as soon as he got out, reports the Baltimore Sun. Two years ago, he was offered the chance to go on methadone. When he got out of prison last year, he stayed on methadone. He now holds a job and cares for his family.
Wise benefited from an approach being tried in Baltimore to break the cycle of arrest, release, and relapse that has stymied government efforts to reduce crime and fight drugs. In a five-year federally funded study, 60 inmates at a state prison in Baltimore will be given methadone in the months leading up to release. Researchers from the Friends Research Institute are trying to determine whether these inmates will be more likely to seek methadone and counseling after their release, and to get jobs and stay out of trouble, than other inmates with heroin problems. The researchers will follow up with inmates up to a year after their release, and they expect to have results by 2008. At that point, the state may decide to expand methadone distribution to all its prisons, depending on the findings. The current approach hasn’t been working. The Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland says that more than a third of men arrested in Baltimore, and nearly half of women arrested, have used heroin in the month before their arrest, among the highest rates in the country. Other studies have found that most addicted inmates relapse onto heroin within a month of their release.