Summary and Analysis

This article promoting medication-assisted treatment in prisons includes a statement from a U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey that medications used in MAT programs are “the standard of care for treating Opioid Use Disorder, as it is far superior and more efficacious than other possible treatments.” But is this as true and as much of a consensus as this U.S. Attorney’s office gives one to believe?

In a publication titled Treating Drug Problems: Volume 2, a research team made this observation about what makes in-prison rehabilitation programs effective:

  1. A competent and committed staff
  2. The support of correctional authorities
  3. Adequate resources
  4. A comprehensive, intensive course of therapy aimed at affecting the lifestyle of clients beyond their substance abuse problem
  5. Continuity of care after inmates are paroled.

They then add, “In the absence of any of these features, it would be difficult to expect a drug treatment program to substantially reduce recidivism.”

This research paper echoes the policies of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. These two agencies have both published the guide Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment on their websites. This guide includes these principles:

  • No single treatment is appropriate for everyone.
  • Effective treatment attends to multiple needs of the individual, not just his or her drug abuse.

If our only offerings to incarcerated citizens are medications that go no further than alleviating cravings, is it possible we are short-changing them?

Excerpted from The Marshall Project

In 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, a wide-ranging prison reform legislation that, among other things, required the federal prison system to expand access to medications for people addicted to opioids. Amid a historic spike in overdoses, both inside prisons and jails and in the country at large, the idea was to save lives: These medications reduce drug use and protect against overdose, and the weeks just after release are a particularly vulnerable time for formerly incarcerated people.