There have been many recent reports of the drug Suboxone being smuggled into prisons. According to the Albuquerque Journal, a 66-year-old mother was arrested on Friday for trying to get Suboxone past guards for her son in prison.
What’s odd is that Suboxone is used to treat opioid addictions, such as an addiction to heroin. It doesn’t give the typical “high” sought after by many addicts. What it does do, though, is relieve withdrawal symptoms caused by opioid addiction. Suboxone is also highly addictive, which may be why it is sought after by prisoners.
Suboxone is also easier to smuggle into prisons than many other drugs. Suboxone can be taken orally, in the form of a thin film which is placed under the tongue. The thin packaging makes it easier to hide while smuggling, as opposed to the paraphernalia required to use a drug like heroin. This may be another reason why there is a surge of Suboxone smuggling in prisons.
According to Drugfree.org, there is evidence that 12% of all contraband found in Massachusetts state prisons is Suboxone related. Other states have reported various attempts to smuggle Suboxone into prisons. They have found Suboxone sewed into the lining of sweatpants, and crushed underneath stamps on envelopes.
Disturbingly, Suboxone can also be found on children’s coloring pages. Suboxone pills are crushed and smeared onto a coloring book page, giving the area an orange color. Children then draw onto the page normally, making it seem like a present for their parent or loved one in prison.
Many prisons have limited resources and treatments for those going through opioid withdrawals. According to a study in the US National Library of Medicine, approximately 15% of people entering jail or prison have an opioid addiction. This leaves those individuals with two options: either go through withdrawal cold turkey, or find a way to smuggle in their drug of choice, or Suboxone.
Many prisoners choose the latter.
Lack of treatment for addiction in prison brings up other concerns. Many prisoners who are having withdrawals will do anything to get relief if there is no proper treatment available. Some of the most addictive drugs are taken by injection, which requires needles and syringes. Because contraband can be difficult to get in prison, needle sharing is a common practice among prisoners. This can lead to outbreaks of HIV and Hepatitis C.
In addition, prisoners who have negative experiences with detox and withdrawal in prison may be less likely to seek treatment after being released. This study found a correlation between the negative prison experience and the continuation of drug use.
The smuggling of Suboxone, or any substance into a prison is a bad practice. That goes without saying. However, if there were more treatment options available in prison, inmates may not have to resort to smuggling drugs to get relief. Suboxone is controversial in itself; it certainly helps opioid addicts get off drugs like heroin or Oxycontin, but can take the place of the addiction. When prisoners, or anyone for that matter, is using Suboxone WITHOUT the aid of other treatment programs, the individual is not gaining much benefit. The inclusion of more treatment programs for addicts, whether they include Suboxone or not, is necessary to help stifle the surge of addiction across the nation.