Exemplars of Addiction Treatment within Prison

Exemplars of Addiction Treatment within Prison

Up to 85% of inmates in America suffer from substance abuse and dependence, but only 11% receive addiction support and treatment.

With the illegality of many addictive drugs and the power of addiction to influence a person’s behaviour, it is no surprise that prisons around the world are full of addicted men and women. In America up to 85% of inmates suffer from issues with substance abuse and dependence, but currently only 11% receive any addiction support or treatment.

Addiction specialist David Sack attributes the slow movement towards addiction treatment within prison to a lack of understanding about how addiction works. He says many still expect prison to “scare addicts straight.” While some think that prison forces inmates to stop using, the statistics show that inmates are not exactly surrounded by people pushing them into recovery. In fact without proper treatment in prisons some say inmates are learning how to be better addicts – with many returning to using within the first month of release.

Despite the inadequate treatment services for addiction within prisons at least two new programmes in Australia and America have recently made headlines.

Within the walls of a Sydney woman’s prison some inmates are participating in a new intensive drug and alcohol treatment programme. At the neighbouring men’s prison the same programme is already in its second year with promising results and claims to be the largest prison-based rehabilitation programme of its kind in the world. 48 inmates can be housed in the women’s treatment ward, and about 20 have been enrolled so far. Between the two prisons there are almost 300 beds available for treatment.

The new programme, now in its sixth week, provides addiction counselling, support and a therapeutic community within the prison to screened inmates who have one year left of their sentence. If selected, participation in treatment is mandatory. According to one participant many of the women enrolled did not want to take part in treatment and went in “kicking and screaming,” but have since shown they are challenging themselves to change. Evidence shows treatment does not have to be voluntary in order to be effective and the programme hopes to help women not only overcome addiction, but learn occupational skills needed to successfully reintegrate into the community on their release.

In America the Utah State Prison recently held the first 5K run within prison grounds as part of a new programme “Addict to Athlete”. For many participants it was their first ever 5K. It is making challenging accomplishments such as the 5K that counsellors say is the core of the new programme. The programme is voluntary, but inmates are offered incentives to participate. Addict II Athlete has been active within the community since 2011 and was integrated into the state prison’s treatment programme approximately two months ago. Counsellors are optimistic about the programme’s benefits and believe that adding exercise to traditional addiction education and treatment will help inmates commit to the greater lifestyle changes that it takes to stay sober.

While there is still a lot of work to do in terms of rehabilitating inmates who suffer from addiction, these prisons seem to be moving in the right direction.

Interested in how exercise can be used within addiction treatment? At The Cabin we also use individualised exercise therapy as part of our primary treatment programme. Contact us for more information if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.