STAT

Opinion: Jails and prisons: the unmanned front in the battle against the opioid epidemic

Why do state officials think that forcing addicted prisoners to go through withdrawal cold turkey is the right thing to do?
Source: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

If you have type 1 diabetes and wind up behind bars, you’ll get the insulin injections needed to control your blood sugar. If you don’t, there will be public outrage over this violation of your human rights. But if you have an opioid addiction — like type 1 diabetes, a disease that could rob you of your life — and are taking an opioid agonist medication like buprenorphine or methadone to stay sober, it’s virtually guaranteed it will be stopped the day you step foot inside your cell.

Over the next few days you’ll go through a brutal withdrawal and your risk of relapsing will soar. Once you’re released, there’s a good chance you’ll use opioids almost immediately, along with the possibility that you’ll accidentally overdose and die.

This barbaric practice happens across the country every day. As an addiction psychiatrist, I’ve heard horror stories from patients who’ve been through it, most

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from STAT

STAT5 min readPolitics
Opinion: Wider Use Of Assisted Outpatient Treatment Could Help Individuals With Mental Illness
Many states still rely on laws that require individuals to become dangerous to themselves or others before they can be treated without their consent. We need laws that that prevent…
STAT9 min readWellness
‘The Switch’ Was Supposed To Be A Major Step Toward Eradicating Polio. Now It’s A Quandary
A change in polio vaccination policies was supposed to put the world on a better footing to finally eliminate a global scourge. It's gotten complicated.
STAT6 min readSociety
Opinion: Ease Financial Toxicity By Putting Electronic Medical Records To Work
Clicking away on an electronic health record in the digital darkness of my exam room, I epitomize the moral injury of modern medicine as I systematically dispense doses of financial…