The current war on drugs seems to focus on this nation's opioid epidemic, and more people are being incarcerated for drug and related crimes. While a person with a substance use disorder may be seemingly safer from drugs while in prison (there is still drug use in prison, but this is harder to maintain), there are some real dangers associated with opioid addiction and the prison system. 

Since most states do not provide any type of opioid treatment for prisoners, a person that has been incarcerated will still walk out of prison with an active substance use disorder, even after a period of abstinence. A recent study has found that released prisoners have an incredibly high risk of opioid overdose deaths

The Risk of Opioid Overdose Deaths is High Among Released Prisoners

Nearly 80 percent of inmates end up back in prison after being released. However, a much more permanent end to this cycle is possible if you are addicted to opioids. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health determined that former inmates are 40 times more likely than the average citizen to lose their lives to an opioid overdose within just two weeks of release. 

Researchers studied close to 230,000 former North Carolina inmates over a five-year period and compared the rates of fatal opioid overdoses to those of the state's general population. Even 12 months after release, inmates were 11 times more likely to experience a heroin overdose than the average citizen. 

The study determined that nearly 70 percent of people in North Carolina's prison system have a substance use disorder. When they are incarcerated, these people are forced to withdraw from drugs without assistance. They subsequently have lower tolerance levels which makes them susceptible to an overdose just after release. 

The Need for Addiction Treatment Within the Prison System

One of the reasons that the overdose rates are so high is that there is a relationship between addiction treatment and overdose deaths. Specifically, when prisoners are provided with addiction treatment services, there is a lower chance of drug use and overdose after release. 

Unfortunately, not many prison systems in the U.S. provide these services. Vox reported on this issue earlier this year. It found that, of the 46 state prison systems that responded to its requests for information, only Rhode Island provided inmates with Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone. Seventeen other states offer just one or two of the three drugs to inmates. A majority of states have no programs available to help prisoners who have a substance use disorder. 

Man holding up broken handcuffs


If you have a substance use disorder, you can bridge the gap from the prison system with an addiction treatment program.

Get Addiction Treatment for Opioid Abuse Now

If you have just been released from prison or have a loved one in the system, it is not necessary to become one of these terrifying statistics. The truth is that having a substance use disorder does not make you a bad person, but it is next to impossible to achieve recovery without help. 

At The Recovery Village, we can help bridge the gap between the corrections system and living an independent life that is free of harmful substances. Whether you need detox services or not, we will design a program to suit your particular needs that includes a transition into aftercare services. 

Contact us now to discuss your admissions options with one of our experienced addictions specialists. 

Released Prisoners at Shockingly High Risk for Opioid Overdose Deaths
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