It’s well-documented that most people who are currently incarcerated suffered from some form of addiction while committing crimes. A 2010 study
from CASA Columbia found that 65 percent of U.S. inmates across the country meet the medical criteria for substance abuse addiction.
But while these inmates desperately need drug treatment, only 11 percent received any during their incarceration, leading to a much greater likelihood of relapse and recidivism.
Some jails are taking steps to address by offering the extended-release medication known as naltrexone, an injectable drug which is often sold as Vivitrol. It’s been on the market for opioid addiction since 2010 and is administered monthly by a doctor sticking a needle into a shoulder muscle. By halting all drug cravings, patients no longer need to take daily pills and constantly manage their sobriety.
A new NYU study published in the journal Addiction, involving Vivitrol use among NYC inmates, yielded promising results. The research project involved 33 incarcerated inmates, 16 of whom received a Vivitrol injection before their release date and again four weeks later. The other 17 inmates did not receive the drug.
The Outcome is Promising
One month after their release, 62 percent of those in the Vivitrol group has stayed sober, compared to just 12 percent of the control group. The Vivitrol group was also less likely to be re-incarcerated during the study period. However, both groups received referrals to community treatment and motivational counseling.
"There has been a lot of interest in Vivitrol as post-incarceration relapse prevention, but not much actual data," said lead investigator Joshua D. Lee, MD, MSc, associate professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU Langone. “This randomized trial…showed substantial benefits.”
Using the Tools Available
Other prisons throughout the country have also used Vivitrol with great success.
Reuters reported that The Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, which uses the drug as part of its “re-entry” program for prisoners getting ready to leave the facility, found that 79 percent of participants managed to stay out of prison upon their release. The national average of prisoners who avoid being re-incarcerated in their first three years is just 30 percent.
Although prisons have a responsibility to safely incarcerate prisoners who have been deemed a danger to themselves or the public, they also have a responsibility to rehabilitate these individuals so they can become productive citizens. Providing drug treatment services to help address some of the issues that may have landed them behind bars is an essential component of this.
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