Although 80 percent of the people in prison in the United States suffer from substance use disorders, very few of them receive any type of formal addiction treatment or even any medication when they experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Many prisons and jails have maintained that this is a way of helping addicts put an end to their substance abuse (as the theory is they will be unlikely to use again because of the painful experience). However, this is actually nowhere near as effective as addiction treatment.
Those who are incarcerated and suffering from a substance use disorder are a large percentage of the prison population (50 percent to be exact). While many people believe that a prison sentence will minimize a person’s desire to abuse drugs or alcohol, they do not realize that addiction is a disease that cannot simply be scared away. Those who go through withdrawal without medication or help will not only be in danger of death in many cases, but if they do survive, they will often return to substance abuse after they leave prison because they are still addicted. Without treatment, addiction cannot be properly addressed, and people often cannot make real change.
25 percent of the inmates who leave prison returned within three years time, according to a recent study of 15 states. Many of these individuals also test positive for drugs when they are arrested. When prisoners receive treatment for addiction, however, they are three times less likely to return to prison and seven times less likely to abuse drugs.