You are currently viewing Understanding Addiction Behind Bars
Man in prison

Understanding Addiction Behind Bars

NBC News recently published an important article about America’s prison systems and how, for people suffering from addictions, they can be a very dangerous place. This actually ties in to a recent decriminalization law passed in Oregon, which would send people caught with small amounts of heroin into treatment programs versus jails. It is all very thought provoking and worth delving into as we look to ways to curb the U.S. dependency epidemic.


NBC writer Jake Arther, who himself served time over a drug charge, brings a very emotional angle to the story. He is a big proponent of Oregon’s decriminalization measures and believes if the country, as a whole, were to adopt a similar stance it would make a major dent in combating the crisis.


“By giving addicts a path to a better life by offering treatment in lieu of incarceration, we’re giving these individuals a real chance to heal and lead productive lives instead of compounding their addiction when serving time,” Arther writes. “The environment inside prison is very toxic. Put a bunch of untreated alcoholics, drug addicts and violent criminals together, and what could possibly go wrong? After all, when you’ve got a raging addiction, nothing but time and nearly nothing to lose, why not snort whatever you can get your hands on?”


Arther goes on to explain how drugs easily slip in and out of prison walls. Often times they are smuggled in via conjugal visits. There is also an underground market for “legal” prescription pills provided to prisoners. Inmates easily find ways to stash and trade these meds amongst themselves; furthering bad habits.


NBC’s research showed that, more often than not, inmates leave the prison system with worse addictions than they started with. This then leads to a revolving door of ins and outs, sending people back into the system after their habits lead to further arrests. There was also an interesting stat that showed that overdose risks were significantly higher for people battling substance abuse immediately after they leave jail.


Arther openly admits that he was one of the lucky ones. He was able to serve time, get out and successfully conquer his addiction. But he believes that is a very rare occurrence and admitted to seeing a lot of temptation behind bars. Let’s hope Oregon can begin to show some legitimate progress with their new laws; leading other states to soon follow suit.