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Ohio Jail Offering Inmates Addiction Medications in the Midst of the Opioid Epidemic

Sublingual Suboxone(Buprenorphine/Naloxone 8mg/2mg) Tablets
Sublingual Suboxone(Buprenorphine/Naloxone 8mg/2mg) Tablets (Photo: Jr de Barbosa)

In one Ohio county jail, health care providers have extended access to medications like buprenorphine to inmates to help break the cycle of addiction.

Inmates in a Hamilton County, Ohio jail who are suffering from addiction face temptation upon their release, as dealers hang out near the jail waiting for newly released inmates who are willing to buy their drugs. Some inmates told Cincinnati.com that they will be offered free samples, as dealers believe that will get them back. Unfortunately, this perpetuates a deadly cycle of addiction for those released from jail.

With no access to addiction treatment or addiction medications, inmates inevitably give in to these triggers on a regular basis. Often times, these individuals will end up back in jail due to their substance abuse. In addition,  Jon Berg, a public health advisor, states that “within three months of release from custody, 75 percent of people who were in prison or jail with an opioid-use disorder experience a relapse to opioid use.”

However, in Hamilton County jail, health care providers have extended access to medications like buprenorphine to inmates to help break the cycle of addiction. Approximately 52 inmates are taking advantage of buprenorphine, which is about 3% of the jail’s population. While this number may seem small, it may represent a new beginning for these inmates.

What is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is an FDA approved medication that is used to help individuals who suffer from opioid addiction manage their cravings and stay sober. When this drug is used in combination with comprehensive addiction treatment, it can help prevent relapse among opioid addicts and decrease the rate of opioid overdoses.

One of the most popular buprenorphine drugs, Suboxone, is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone. Suboxone can help users manage their withdrawal symptoms, diminish cravings, and block the euphoric effects from opioids so a user cannot get high while taking the drug. Suboxone treatment has been proven to substantially improve the chances of individuals staying sober, and more than 10 million prescriptions for Suboxone were written within its first five years on the market.

Unlike Hamilton County jail, other jails across the nation have been slow to catch on as only 1 in 20 jails and prisons nationwide offer these kinds of medications. However, addiction specialists view this as a great starting point in stopping the vicious cycle of opioid addiction among inmates as they have led to a direct decline of these inmates returning to jail.

Hopefully, in the future, we will see more and more jails and prisons offering medication-assisted treatment to inmates who suffer from opioid use disorder, as it can save lives of individuals who desperately want to get better.

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