How States Address Opioid Use Disorder in Prisons

The Pew Charitable Trusts

By Beth Connolly

Individuals within the criminal justice system have a high prevalence of substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD). Based on the latest data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 2007 to 2009 an estimated 58 percent of state prisoners and 63 percent of sentenced jail inmates met criteria for SUD (defined as drug dependence or abuse by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). These figures exclude those with nicotine and alcohol use disorders. In prisons and jails, people with OUD have limited access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which combines medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration with behavioral therapies and is considered the gold standard of care. In addition, one study found that formerly incarcerated individuals had a 12.2-fold increased risk of fatal drug overdose compared with the general public during an average of two years post-release.

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