Last month, our Vice President of Clinical Development, Dr. Romas Buivydas, and State Director for Massachusetts’ Correctional Services, Earl Warren attended the American Correctional Association (ACA) conference in St. Louis, Missouri. While there, they led a workshop designed to educate the audience of non-clinical corrections professionals about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for addiction and substance use disorders.

While MAT has been a strong component of recovery for individuals struggling with opioid addiction for many years, it is relatively new to the correctional field. Medication-assisted treatment has not been widely adopted in the prison system as of yet, but the tide is changing. Today, 21 jail re-entry programs are working to incorporate it.

Oftentimes, when it is administered to inmates, line staff does not fully understand the science of addiction and the medications available for treating it. MAT differs from traditional abstinence-based treatments in a variety of ways. Its primary role is to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, reduce cravings and stabilize co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression. It also reduces drug use, protects against overdoses, prevents dangerous injections and reduces criminal behavior.

There are three different options for MAT – methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. Each is administered differently, and treatment is based upon an individual’s use history, mental health status and unique circumstances. This treatment should only be given in addition to traditional recovery work and therapy.

Due to the client base and secure environment, deploying MAT in the prison system has different layers of complexity, but programs should seriously consider the positive effects of treatment. Without it, inmates suffering cravings have no relief. During this period of abstinence, inmates lose their tolerance to their preferred substance, thereby increasing the likelihood of an overdose when they return to using drugs after their release. The likelihood that a client treated with MAT in prison will seek continued treatment upon release is far higher than an inmate who only received abstinence-based services.

By using medication and therapeutic approaches, correctional facilities can prevent overdose, treat struggling inmates with every tool available and help people transition to their communities with a strong sense of sobriety, confidence and connections to treatment.

To learn more about medication-assisted treatment and Spectrum’s work in corrections, visit our website today. Stay tuned for an in-depth look at the three different types of medication available to treat addiction in a future blog in the coming weeks.