January 23, 2019, Nina Feldman - WHYY
Almost a year ago, the Philadelphia Department of Prisons began offering buprenorphine to its opioid-addicted inmates. The drug, widely known by its brand name, Suboxone, is a low-dose opioid designed to curb withdrawal and prevent cravings. When combined with therapy, it is considered the gold standard for opioid-addiction treatment.
But due to federal prescribing limits, the department has found itself in a tough position: It has more people who need the drug than doctors who can prescribe it.
Of the 30,000 inmates expected to be admitted to Philadelphia’s county jail this year, officials estimate that about 6,000 will be addicted to opioids. For many, their time in jail may be their only interaction with medical professionals. From a public-health perspective, therefore, incarceration can present an opportunity to connect those addicted to opioids with treatment — especially if that treatment is continued after release from prison.