Opioid Use Disorder and Incarceration

Does Opioid Use Disorder Lead To Incarceration?

Many currently incarcerated people suffer from opioid use disorder (OUD). As a society, we incarcerate people based on choices they make. We label a person a “criminal,” and isolate them. We separate criminals from non-criminals. Calling for criminal justice reform runs beyond the scope of this article. However, we sentence people with opioid use disorder to incarceration. We must therefore consider the impact of such measures.

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What is opioid use disorder?
  • Is opioid use disorder a disease or a choice?
  • What do drug use statistics say about the prevalence of opioid use disorder?
  • How does trauma relate to opioid use disorder?
  • What if I still have questions about opioid use disorder and incarceration?

What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

To diagnose mental illnesses and substance use ailments, psychologists use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM. Volume 5 of the DSM lists specific diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder. The criteria include things like:

  • One has strong urges to consume opioids
  • One ingests more than the recommended dosage
  • One’s opioid use interrupts one’s responsibilities
  • One invests a significant amount of time to acquire opioids
  • One keeps using opioids in spite of negative outcomes

What Are Opioids?

We hear the word “opioid” frequently. We hear terms like “opioid crisis” or “opioid epidemic.” But to properly comprehend OUD, we must grasp the concept of an opioid. Opioids occur in nature. Our brains make them. We develop medicinal opioids from the poppy plant. Healthcare professionals use opioids to relieve pain.

Examples of opioids include:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

Is Opioid Use Disorder A Disease Or A Choice?

What we believe about addiction influences how we understand opioid use disorder and incarceration. Should we regard those struggling with opioid use disorder as criminals, we may feel justified in incarcerating them. If we treat OUD as a disease, we see a need for a cure. Compassion, rather than condemnation, motivates us.

Opioid Use Disorder As A Choice

No matter the circumstances, ultimately a person decides to consume opioids. They felt a need. They had time to think about the consequences. That done, they decided to act. They bear responsibility for introducing opioids into their bodies. We must hold people accountable for their choices.

Opioid Use Disorder As A Disease

We must not assume that humans primarily act as rational beings. Humans do make informed choices. But emotions drive those choices. No one seeks addiction as an end goal. Nary a soul exists that desires to live that kind of life. We must address the conditions that make opioid use appear as an attractive choice.

A Holistic View Of Opioid Use Disorder

The staff at Harmony know that opioid use disorder has elements of disease and choice. Some people fall into the emotional and mental bondage of opioid use. They did make a choice. If choice played no role at all, recovery could not happen. Out treatment programs empower clients by empowering them to make healthy, productive choices.

What Do Drug Use Statistics Say About The Prevalence Of Opioid Use Disorder?

Drug use statistics conclude the increased prevalence of opioid use disorder. In 2013, about 1 in 100,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Five years later (2018), that number increased to 10 in 100,000.

Data from 2016 estimate that over 26 million people worldwide struggle with OUD.

A January 2021 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence tallied the total national cost of OUD in the Unites States at $1.02 trillion. One study referred to opioids as, “the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.”

What Happens Incarcerated People With Opioid Use Disorder?

Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) has some success in treating opioid use disorder. You may also hear this treatment method called medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Rather than encouraging OUD sufferers to quit cold turkey, MOUD/MAT uses methadone or buprenorphine. These two medicines help to decrease cravings and reduce relapses. With those problems addressed, those with OUD can focus their mental energy on therapy and recovery.

Unfortunately, many with opioid use disorder become incarcerated during their addictive cycles. While incarcerated, OUD sufferers may not have access to MOUD/MAT. Consequently, their addictions will likely get worse. When used in jails and prisons, MOUD lowered the death rates of released inmates. Even in a correctional setting, this kind of treatment program produces positive results. If more inmates had access to MOUD/MAT, they might become less likely to relapse upon release.

How Does Trauma Relate To Opioid Use Disorder?

At Harmony Recovery, we understand the relationship between opioid use disorder and trauma. People struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also experience OUD. These illnesses may occur at the same time. We find that many clients with OUD have had numerous incidents of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Not everyone who experiences trauma develops a substance use disorder like OUD. Trauma might not directly cause someone to seek relief from opioids. Nevertheless, trauma does seem to act as a precursor for OUD.  

What Can We Do About Opioid Use Disorder And Trauma?

To adequately serve clients, we must help them heal. Harmony Recovery utilizes a specific approach to trauma called trauma-informed care or TIC. TIC helps clients descend into the roots of trauma. Trauma necessitates this kind of approach. Because of the high number of trauma survivors with OUD, Harmony implements the trauma-informed care model into all of our treatment programs. TIC gives us a client-based approach to establishing a fundamental basis for real transformation.

What If I Still Have Questions About Opioid Use Disorder And Incarceration?

Perhaps someone you love suffers both opioid use disorder and incarceration. You may wonder if hope exists for this person. Maybe you struggle with opioid use disorder yourself. You might have just been released from a jail or prison. Know that you have value. Your life has worth and merit. And hope does exist.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid use disorder, call Harmony Recovery Center now.

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