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Drug Detox and Treatment in Jail and Prison


Drug detox and treatment in jail or prison isn’t guaranteed to any addict or alcoholic. In fact, depending on the state and locality, the crime/s, sentence, and a number of other variables, it’s possible that some addicts will receive no detox or treatment care whatsoever. This is a troubling issue considering the severe stress and potential medical danger of symptoms related to sudden abstinence and the resulting acute withdrawal. For most addicts facing jail or prison time, whether treatment is available on discovery institute or not is largely dependent upon luck.

Temporary Holding in Small Local Jails

For some addicts the worst situation possible is incarceration in a small local jail for a period of more than 24 hours. For instance, incarceration over a holiday weekend – when no arraignments or public processes occur – could mean that even a chronic addict or alcoholic may be forced to withdraw for a period of 3 or more days.

Small rural jails often have little to no detox resources available for inmates and subsequently even severe addicts are forced to “cold turkey” quit. For people who are addicted to substances like alcohol and benzodiazepine, withdrawal could prove dangerous and in some cases fatal without proper medical treatment. Opiate addicts (heroin, morphine, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, etc) are also at risk of complications related to withdrawal; including a high propensity for suicide.

Addicts who are placed in this type of situation are advised to politely but firmly state the nature of their addiction and request medical assistance of some type. When able to make a phone call, family members should be contacted to press the facility to provide care.

Larger City, Regional and State Jails

Larger city, regional and state jails are often better funded than small local jails and therefore offer some types of detox and treatment for drug addiction or alcoholism. In some cases this includes opiate replacement therapy and other types of medically-managed detox programs.

Because most jails house inmates for short periods of time, long term treatment – especially residential inpatient treatment – is generally not available. Instead, city, state and regional jails provide drug education and connect addicts with ongoing resources in the community to continue their recovery efforts “on the outside.” Often some components of these recovery efforts are mandated by the courts upon release and are enforced by a probation officer.

Recently city and regional jails have been motivated to improve their care of addicts after a surge in the number of lawsuits alleging that lack of care led to inmate deaths. Indeed, many of the cases are extremely compelling, and, regardless of fault, saddening. Unfortunately, many jails across the country are behind the times when it comes to detox, withdrawal and treatment for addicted inmates.

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