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Drug Overdose Deaths Falling In California Prisons

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Sacramento, CA — State officials are attributing a decline in drug overdoses at prisons to a recently implemented program that uses prescribed drugs to treat incarcerated inmates.

California implemented the program two years ago, which was controversial, and uses drugs like buprenorphine, naltrexone and methadone to reduce addicts’ cravings and ween them off opioids. It is now endorsed by most state correctional officials, according to the Associated Press.

The move came as drug overdoses in prisons peaked at 51 per 100,000 inmates in 2019. It is double the overall overdose death rate of all nationwide state prisons. California’s number fell to 21 deaths per 100,000 in 2020 and 20 per 100,000 in 2021.

The state says over 22,000 inmates have received the drugs over the past two years under the program, and the plan is to increase it to 25,000 annually, which is about a quarter of the prison population.

The state estimates that at least 65-percent of inmates have substance abuse problems, and many have found ways to acquire illegal drugs that are smuggled behind bars via the black market.