NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– The number of heroin overdoses continues to rise and the state’s opioid crisis is being felt in nearly every community. Now, there is a push to get methadone treatments into prisons and jails to help inmates deal with addiction problems.
Last year there were more than 700 deadly drug overdoses in the state. According to officials, 44 percent of those people had a record with the Department of Correction. Right now two correctional facilities in the state have methadone programs. They treat about 55 inmates. And their success has government officials hoping to expand the program.Related: Connecticut to expand methadone treatment for prisoners
The APT Foundation in New Haven is a mental health and addiction services facility. They say addicts who do not use a supervised medication program like methadone to get clean have an 80 to 90 percent chance of relapsing in the first year. When you combine that statistic with the fact that an inmate’s tolerance for drugs goes down while incarcerated, the result is an increased risk of overdose once they are released.
One of the biggest challenges with approval for methadone treatments is the stigma that an addict is just substituting one drug with another. But, doctors say that is not the case. Consistent methadone treatment significantly lowers the risk of overdose and increases the chances for long term recovery.
“They’re very different from the way we use them to abuse them. So people aren’t given these medications in a way they can get high from them. It’s also decreasing a lot of the risks associated with illicit use,” said Dr. Carla Marienfeld, APT Foundation.
“There’s a lot of work to do in terms of really helping people access treatment and one of the ways that we can do that is to reduce the stigma and the silence really associated with people who have opioid disorders,” said Lynn Madden, CEO APT Foundation.
Methadone is taken once a day and usually administered by a clinician in a controlled environment. No needles, no risk of infection. It decreases withdrawal symptoms and doctors say a patient will not feel any of the euphoria associated with drug use. The statewide program aims to treat 1,000 inmates a year and will cost about $4 million.