Organization calls for better addiction treatment for prisoners

Organization calls for better addiction treatment for prisoners

Policymakers should support measures expanding access to evidence-based opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment for the incarcerated, according to an American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) public policy statement.

“For decades, America has tried to arrest and incarcerate away problems with drug use and addiction,” Dr. Paul H. Earley, ASAM president, said. “As a result, millions of individuals with a preventable and treatable medical disease have been locked up – many of them Black and Latinx Americans – where they have not been offered evidence-based treatment for their disease. This must change. By following the recommendations we detail today, which call for systemic changes to ensure universal access to such care within correctional institutions, we can save lives and encourage long-term recovery — positive outcomes that reverberate well beyond prison walls.”

Up to 20 percent of individuals who are incarcerated meet the criteria for OUD, and nearly two-thirds have a history of substance-use disorder, according to researchers. These people are 129 times more likely to die from an overdose after release than the general population.

In its statement, ASAM outlined systemic changes to ensure universal addiction treatment in correctional institutions and described a standard of care all individuals with OUD should receive.