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Prescribing Suboxone for Ex-Prisoners

New York will give certain state prisoners Suboxone upon release as treatment/prevention from heroin use. The new plan created under the “Medication Support Recovery Project” hopes to help released inmates, who have been drug-free since arrest, stay off of heroin.

Suboxone is a treatment drug created for opioid dependence. It contains buprenorphine (an opioid) and naloxone, which blocks the opioid. When used correctly, Suboxone can minimize a person’s cravings, while prohibiting a high. However, studies have found the drug in and of itself to be addictive and often sold illegally on the street. (NYPD saw illegal Suboxone sales grow from 59 to 287 from 2007 to 2009.)

A member of the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services stated that research shows the brain to still suffer from cravings after the use of opiates has been discontinued. And that inmates who were opiate-dependent prior to incarceration have a higher risk of overdosing once released due to the combination of cravings with a lowered tolerance. (JoinTogether.org)

However, many feel that putting someone who has already detoxed and had a period of abstinence from opioids on another potentially addictive opiate drug is a bad idea. Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan also added, “It’s asking for trouble to put a drug that people want to buy into the hands of prisoners reentering society.” Some are concerned that it’s a situation in which the state is giving the tools without the skills, and that Suboxone without the combination of psychosocial/behavioral treatment and close monitoring is ineffective. In addition, further treatment may then be necessary to discontinue the use of Suboxone.

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