A new study shows that individuals in methadone maintenance treatment who have this treatment stopped due to incarceration are far less likely to seek substance abuse treatment when they are eventually released from jail or prison. In the USA eliminating methadone maintenance treatment for inmates is a policy that is widespread. Critics of this policy argue that this type of substance abuse treatment save lives and helps to reduce the spread of communicable diseases among drug users, as well as reducing the drug seeking behaviors of the individual in treatment. Many advocates of this policy view methadone maintenance treatment as replacement therapy, arguing that the user is simply replacing one drug with another, and that the true causes of the addiction in the person are not addressed with this substance abuse treatment option.
The latest methadone maintenance treatment study showed that individuals who were allowed to continue with their treatment during incarceration were between 2x and 6x more likely to keep up with additional substance abuse treatment at a clinic once they left jail or prison. The study results and details were published in The Lancet, the May 28, 2015 edition. According to Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at The Miriam Hospital director, Brown University professor of medicine and epidemiology, and one of the study authors Dr. Josiah Rich “What we are doing with methadone in our correctional system is we are systematically taking people off it. It’s the only medication that is summarily stopped upon incarceration. This study questioned that policy to find out what happens. For most of these people, the very reason they are caught up in the criminal justice system is related to their addiction to begin with.”