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Opioid Epidemic Increases Jail Suicides?




Have jail suicides increased at the same time that Opioid deaths have increased nationally (Opioid Epidemic).

For example, data from the Massachusetts state Department of Public Health indicated opioid-related overdose deaths started to increase from 656 in 2011 to 2,069 in 2016.

During the same years, all 14 county Massachusetts sheriffs’ departments reported that suicides in jails began rising from one in 2011 to eight-nine each year from 2013 to 2016.

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.

By: Bradley D. Schwartz
Founder of
Prison Consultant

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