Treating opioid addiction with opioids — and right in the House of Corrections.
That's the imminent reality in Massachusetts with now seven sheriffs signing on to a pilot program to medically treat addicted inmates while they serve their sentences, instead of putting them through detox.
The ultimate cost is unknown, and they are expecting some issues.
"There will be attempts to divert this substance. It's clearly what we should expect," said Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian.
Boston 25 News first reported on this plan eight months ago which is modeled after a similar program in Rhode Island.
>> Read more: Massachusetts jails preparing to give inmates methadone
Fort the Middlesex County Jail, bringing methadone and suboxone in enhances an addiction treatment program that's been in place the last four years. One that's dramatically reduced the number of high-risk inmates who re-offend.
The current program at the Middlesex County Jail relies on detox and injection of a long-acting, form of the drug naltrexone just before an inmate is released. Naltrexone reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol, giving released inmates a fighting chance to get back on their feet.
The controversy has to do with pharmacology. Naltrexone works by blocking opioid receptors. It has no potential for abuse.
Methadone and suboxone, on the other hand, are opioids.
So, why bring them in? The sheriff says it has to do with risk versus benefits. Continuity of care and further reductions in the number of inmates punching return tickets.
"We believe we will be able to control diversion as much as possible. The fact is we will not be able to stop it altogether, but for the greater good and the risk for security, we felt this was something important to move forward with," said Koutoujian.
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