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National Opioid Crisis Includes Prisons




The United States is in the midst of a prescription drug overdose epidemic. 44 people die every day as a result of prescription opioid overdose. The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than 60%) involved an opioid.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defined Opioids as, “a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the illicit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.”

From 2014 to 2015, death rates from synthetic opioids increased 72.2 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vermont is presently in the midst of an addiction crisis. Governor Peter Shumlin in 2014, stated, “In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate drug addiction threatens us…”

In Jefferson County, Kentucky, Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, caused 139 deaths in 2016–an increase from 26 in 2015.

Opioids, are part of the drug abuse crisis, affecting nationally our jails and prisons. Thousands of inmates nationwide suffer from substance abuse and do not receive treatment for their addictions. Often their offenses were directly or indirectly caused by their addictions.

“Everybody is saying it’s crazy for us to be incarcerating people who have substance abuse problems and not be treating them,” said Dr. Warren Ferguson, a professor and vice chair of Family Medicine and Community Health at University of Massachusetts Medical School.

University of Massachusetts Medical School stated,”Nationwide, 65 percent of inmates meet the medical criteria for substance use disorder, but just 11 percent receive treatment while incarcerated. Many additional inmates, while not afflicted with the disorder, were under the influence of drugs when they were arrested for the crime that led to incarceration…”

The Rhode Island Department of Corrections has started a medication-assisted treatment program offering, buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone to inmates addicted to opioids. The program was initially started in Rhode Island’s smallest prison. There are plans to extend the program to other facilities to reduce overall prison overdose deaths.

Federal indictments in October of 2016, have alleged that Correctional officers at Maryland’s largest state prison, Eastern Correctional Institution, for years were part of a large smuggling scheme with inmates involving narcotics, tobacco, pornography and cellphones into the facility in exchange for money and sex. The federal indictments charged 35 inmates, 18 jail guards and 27 “outside facilitators.”

On a personal note, while I was incarcerated in the Maryland state prison system, in Western Maryland, on my tier, it was not a problem to obtain drugs or alcohol. Percocet, Marijuana, and other drugs were easily available for purchase.

Treatment for addicted inmates will not be the cure without the prevention of drug inflow into our jails and prisons.

By: Bradley D. Schwartz
Founder of
PrisonPath was launched in 2013 to provide information about every jail and prison in the United States. Drug treatment centers, therapists, attorneys, and other professionals promote their services on PrisonPath to help our visitors who have addiction and/or mental health issues. Contact [email protected] for more information.