North Carolina Justice System Slowly Adds MAT to Jails
North Carolina, like many states, has slowly been rolling out Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs to jails and prisons. MAT is considered the “gold standard” of treatment for people with opioid use disorder (OUD). In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, MAT should be considered a “best practice” when treating people with OUD.
Substance Use Disorder and Incarceration
For many incarcerated people, drug and alcohol abuse is has been a significant part of their lifestyle. It’s brought them to where they don’t want to be, especially for the incarcerated. As a result, many are in jail for crimes they committed while high or in the pursuit of getting high.
According to the National Institute on drug abuse, nearly 85% of people convicted of crimes have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, when inmates enter the justice system, they don’t leave their addiction at the door. Only recently has the justice system begun to administer MAT to inmates with documented addiction. Alongside 12-step programs, they believe that MAT significantly reduces recidivism and relapse when an incarcerated person walks free.
What is MAT?
Medication-Assisted Treatment is the use of one of three drugs approved by the FDA. When it comes to opioid addiction, it is a unique, life-changing tool. Withdrawal symptoms from drugs like heroin or Oxycontin can be miserable. On top of those symptoms, opioid users experience intense cravings. MAT provides a defense against all of these, allowing a person to get and stay clean and focus on their recovery.
Methadone, buprenorphine (also known as Suboxone), and naltrexone are all drugs that help inhibit cravings for opioids. Some medications can help people who are addicted to alcohol, too. Drugs like cocaine, however, do not have any solutions that are FDA approved.
Therapy Is Recommended Alongside MAT
Addiction treatment is essential for a person who wants to achieve recovery. Therapy is recommended alongside MAT to learn more about their addiction, understand themselves more clearly, and learn to live without the use of substances.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for people with addiction. Many people do well in inpatient treatment settings, while others prefer one-on-one therapy alongside support groups such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
MAT in North Carolina’s Prison and Jail Populations
In North Carolina, 13 of the state’s more than 100 jails have started programs to implement MAT in their facilities, according to an article from North Carolina Health News. The treatment helps inmates who come in during withdrawal cope as they get acclimated to their new surroundings.
MAT providers, however, want the treatment available to any inmate, anywhere, because it saves lives. In addition, it can cut down on relapse both on the inside and the outside. In Buncombe County, the sheriffs cite a 17% reduced recidivism rate for inmates participating in MAT. The key, however, maybe the continuity and availability that a jail program can provide. Even after being released, inmates can remain on MAT, which can help them enter treatment and the next chapter of their lives with hope.
For most residents in prison or jail populations, drug use is still possible and can be tempting. MAT is a common-sense approach that can reduce the losses of life associated with drug addiction and the social costs such as crime. North Carolina is just beginning to utilize these new resources; it will be exciting to see how many lives are transformed as MAT becomes more standard and available.
Are you struggling with a substance use disorder? Do you need help getting clean and sober, once and for all? We're here to help. Learn more about your MAT options by calling us at 910-295-7246.
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