Inmates with heroin addiction can be more likely to die within days of leaving a lockup than if they stayed on the streets. That’s why addiction specialists believe jails and prisons should provide medication-assisted treatment to this vulnerable population. It took until last year, but six of seven jails in the Cincinnati region either offer at least one form of medication-assisted treatment or plan to do so, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Treatment for incarcerated inmates is so new that there’s been no time to test whether it can break the cycle of crime that often accompanies addiction. A Warren County judge who pioneered the treatment there in 2013 says ex-offenders on the medication are not returning to his court.
Despite the near blanket availability of treatment programs, no local jail offers all three FDA-approved medications for heroin and opioid addiction disease: methadone, buprenorphine and injectable naltrexone. Offering all the options is important, experts say, because there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Rhode Island shows it can be done, but its program costs the state $1.9 million annually. The Rhode Island prison and jail program is so unusual that experts at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse could not think of another like it in the nation. “Unfortunately, evidence-based treatment is not standard practice in the criminal justice system,” said Lindsey Vuolo of the addiction center. Nearly every jail in the Cincinnati area has at least one medication: injectable naltrexone, known best by its brand name, Vivitrol. “It’s better than nothing,” said Dr. Joshua Lee of New York University’s Departments of Population Health and Medicine.