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When Children’s Scribbles Hide a Prison Drug?

By Magilla, Dec 17, 2012 | Updated: Dec 17, 2012 | | |
  1. Magilla
    When Children’s Scribbles Hide a Prison Drug


    I was intrigued by an article I saw on my internet homepage. It was titled: “When Children’s Scribbles Hide a Prison Drug

    This article describes unique ways Suboxone is being smuggled into jails. Law enforcement officials associated with both state and county jails from Maine and Massachusetts were interviewed. They say prisoners and their accomplices make Suboxone into a paste and smear it over the surfaces of papers sent to prisoners from their families. The article mentions the paste being spread over children’s coloring book pages, and under stamps. Suboxone films have been placed behind stamps or in envelope seams. Correctional officers now have to inspect material coming in the mail to prisoners much more closely.

    I had several thoughts. First, yet again, I’m struck by the creativity and cleverness of addicts. If only they could channel this energy in the right direction, amazingly good things could come to them, instead of the continued hardships brought by addiction.

    Then I felt sad that such actions described in the article would taint the reputation of a medication that has the potential to save lives, when used appropriately. Such illicit use of Suboxone gives ammunition to those who would prefer that office-based treatment with Suboxone didn’t exist.

    Then I wondered, how many of these prisoners have a legitimate prescription for Suboxone, but are denied their medication by prison officials? How many are legitimate patients of methadone clinics, also denied their medication while imprisoned, who know that Suboxone will alleviate some of the opioid withdrawal they are feeling? How many of these people are addicted to opioids, not in any kind of treatment, but who know Suboxone will treat their withdrawals?
    At least one study supports the idea that many people use Suboxone illicitly not to get high, but to prevent withdrawal. Dr. Schuman-Olivier studied 78 opioid addicts entering treatment. Nearly half said they had used Suboxone illicitly prior to entering treatment. Of these people, 90% said they used to prevent withdrawal symptoms. These addicts also said they used Suboxone illicitly to treat pain and to ease depression.

    Many law enforcement personnel and members of the legal community have strong biases against medication-assisted treatments. They don’t understand that addiction is a disease, and that methadone and buprenorphine are legitimate, evidence-based treatments. They have difficulty letting go of their idea that addiction is a choice that deserves blame, and have a punitive stance towards addicts. They have low opinions of addicts who are using drugs, but often have no better opinion of a recovering addict who has sought treatment and is doing well on replacement medications, like methadone or buprenorphine.

    But no matter what law enforcement personnel think they know, when they deny prescribed, life-saving medications, I believe they’re practicing medicine without a license.
    The article mentions one woman who, with the aid of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, sued because her Suboxone treatment had not been continued while she was in jailed for a traffic violation. She settled out of court, but her lawyer made the excellent point that if inmates are denied their medications, they will try unlawful means to get it.
    Other patients and their families have brought successful lawsuits against the jail facilities. In at least two cases, in the same Orange County, Florida jail, patient/prisoners were allowed to go through withdrawal for so long that they died. The estate of one person won a three million dollar judgment against the county.
    (1, 2)

    I’m glad to see these lawsuits. I’ve heard appalling stories from many methadone patients, who were denied their medication while incarcerated. I’ve heard tales of jailers taunting these prisoners, when they became sick. There is no defense for such cruelty.
    Orange County now works with local methadone clinics. If a prisoner is a current patient of a clinic, his clinic will send a week’s worth of medication in a locked box via courier. Nurses at the jail have the key to the box, and administer each day’s dose. The jail doctor consults with the medical director at the methadone clinic. Prisoners still have to pay out of pocket to get the medication, so the only cost to the jail is the time required for personnel to administer the medication. It’s certainly much cheaper than paying three million to the estate of a dead prisoner, not to mention much more humane.

    I wish the county jails around the methadone clinic where I work would approach the problem of opioid addiction and treatment in a collaborative way. Sadly, only seven state prison systems offer medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine.
    Rikers Island, in New York City, gives us another example of how such a system could work. There, opioid-addicted prisoners charged with misdemeanors or low grade felonies can be enrolled in a program known as KEEP (Key Extended Entry Program). This program treats opioid addicts with methadone and counseling. Upon release from Rikers Island, these patients are referred to methadone treatment centers in the community. Seventy-six percent have followed through with their treatment, post-release. The results of this program show significant reduction in reincarceration and significant reduction in criminal activity. (3)

    Drug courts trying to save money would be well-advised to look at the Rikers Island program. Studies have shown a cost savings of at least four dollars for every one dollar spent on methadone treatment. This money is saved because methadone patients require fewer days of hospitalization and other healthcare costs, and also because of reduction in criminal activity and incarceration costs. (3, 4)
    I know from comments written to this blog that there are many more people abusing Suboxone than I previously imagined. For sure, some of the prisoners getting smuggled Suboxone are misusing it. But I don’t think the majority are using for anything other than prevention of withdrawal, since they are usually not offered any other effective treatment for this medical condition.


    ::::::::::::::Followup by Dr. Frank Vocci, PhD, President of Friends Research Instistitute::::::::::::::::

    In the United States today, there are more than two million jail and prison inmates, of whom about 15 percent have histories of heroin dependence. Few inmates receive drug abuse treatment while incarcerated or immediately upon release. Research has shown that this population, once released from incarceration, is at high risk of relapse to heroin use, criminal behavior, HIV infection and of overdose death, resulting in a terrible toll on the individuals, their families and our communities.
    The World Health Organization supports the international standard that prisoners have the right to access the health services that would be available to them in the community. Health care in prisons is then a human rights issue and treating drug-dependent prisoners in jail and prison is consistent with the spirit of that standard. However, the correctional systems in the U.S. have been slow to embrace this notion and have shown even less comfort with providing medications to treat addictive disorders.
    There are now several FDA-approved medications available in the U.S. to treat opioid dependence. Methadone has been available to treat opiate dependence since the early 1970s. Buprenorphine (Subutex and Suboxone) has been available since 2003. Oral naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, has been available since 1984 and the recently-approved Vivitrol, a long-acting, injectable form of naltrexone, is now available.

    Unfortunately, these medications are infrequently provided to opioid-dependent adults in U.S. jails and prisons and in the community under parole or probation supervision.
    There are multiple barriers impeding the improved treatment of opioid-dependent inmates, probationers and parolees. There is an inherent contradiction between custodial and treatment goals. Moreover, many correctional officials may not be aware of the strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of medications in reducing drug use and criminal activity. They may be philosophically opposed to the use of medications or reluctant to increase their budgets to include medical services for addiction treatment. Moreover, many corrections officials in charge of jails and prisons feel their responsibilities end when the inmate is released from their facility.

    The question can then be asked: How can change be affected in the criminal justice system to improve the treatment of opioid-dependent prisoners? The answer may lie in current research, the majority of which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

    Two different approaches are being used. The first is to test medications in opioid-dependent prisoners and those newly released from jail or prison. A recent study by Dr. Timothy Kinlock and colleagues at the Friends Research Institute established that adding methadone to counseling in prison increased the likelihood that a prisoner, upon release, would continue to receive drug abuse treatment in the community, reaping the benefits of this medication; e.g., reduced risk of drug use and of overdose. An ongoing multi-site study led by Dr. Charles O’Brien at the University of Pennsylvania is underway among adult probationers and parolees to evaluate the effectiveness of long-acting naltrexone, which protects from relapse and overdose for one month. The research team at Friends Research Institute is also conducting a study of the effectiveness of Suboxone in prisoners with histories of opioid dependence.

    The second approach is to forge better linkages and enhance collaboration between the criminal justice systems and the treatment clinics where effective medications for the treatment of alcohol and/or opioid dependence are available. The Criminal Justice-Drug Abuse Treatment Studies initiative of NIDA is currently funding a multi-city study. Its intent is to improve service coordination between parole and probation agencies and drug treatment clinics that provide medications for addiction treatment through an intervention aimed at improving knowledge and attitudes among community corrections (CC) staff and enhancing inter-organizational relationships. It is anticipated that improved knowledge and attitudes among CC staff will increase the number of criminal justice referrals to the treatment clinics.

    Everyone wins by bringing the power of science to bear on the challenges of drug dependence in the criminal justice system. The opioid-dependent individuals reduce their likelihood of relapsing and dying of drug overdose upon release. A reduction in criminal and HIV-risk behavior improves public safety and protects the public health, and avoided episodes of reincarceration save the taxpayers money.
    Frank Vocci, PhD, is President of Friends Research Institute, which promotes health and well-being through research, grants administration, education and treatment.


    Buprenorphine treatment Doctor locator, provided by samhsa:


  1. Moving Pictures
    not heard of this one but i know of the stamp/envelope seam trick. there is a jail around here who actually banned letters and only allowed inmates to recieve pre-paid post cards as to avoid envelopes and stamps because of the smuggling of suboxone strips. That shit is worth a fortune in jail/prison. While I'm not a fan of diverting medication and making it harder for those who really need it to get it, I think this is a really cool idea. We need more drugs in jail and I mean that. The prices inside are outrageous.
  2. Moving Pictures
    to give just a little more insight into this, since no one knows where I was in jail at, I can relate this story: a friend of mine had someone sending him in the strips pasted onto the envelope seal. I didn't have any money for any but I got a free envelope (whole strip) because I allowed several to be sent in in my name. I can't speak price but there was probably about 10 envelopes (1 strip per) sent in and sold and my buddy mail home almost $500 cash. So do the math. The strips are sold by the tenth or sometimes less and 10 strips totalling almost $500 (and that 500 was after a good deal of comissary and snacks).
  3. ianzombie
    Thats amazing!
    It is amazing how inventive people will get, in order to get drugs.

    This reminds me of the scene from the movie 'In the Name of the Father', where one of the prison inmates has had a jigsaw of the map of the world sent into him in jail, and it has been soaked in LSD.

    In the prison closest to where i live you will often see young guys throwing tennis balls filled with heroin and cannabis resin over the walls, into the mess yard.
  4. hookedonhelping
    In bold is the piece to the puzzle. People are depressed. Whether it's financial, physical, or mental limitations, opiates artificially resolve these issues. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, Dr. Schuman-Olivier's study.

    Getting drugs into prisons.. A game that prisoners play to keep them occupied. I could write a book on this topic alone. It's common place and the forumlary charts the bureau of prisons and county jails abide by IS NOT WORKING.
  5. nitehowler
    Just goes to show that holding people against their will and forcing them not to take drugs makes little difference to a community that will always be bitter towards government authorities for locking up our loved ones and denying sufferers of many medical conditions life saving and pain relief remedies.

    The tighter the jail the more drugs ive found. Even the maxo drug detox segregation units had a smorgasbord of any drug you wanted. Getting a dirty urine was a positive thing cause you got to catch the bus so you got a change of scenery for the day. If you got busted who cares what are they gunna do put you in jail well ya already in there so stiff.
    The jail system thrives on depressed prisoners and the illegality of drugs to keep them in work.
    I wonder how Government authorities would feel if we held them against their will or maybe their family members then will they realize why they have bred so much hatred in the community towards themselves.

    What a ridiculous system we have.

    I hope that one day the community will force these ridiculous governments to do the right thing and stop the ridiculous drug war.
  6. N0rthrnCa707
    Reminds me of when they had the children's books that had the black typed letters laced with black tar heroin.
  7. Mick Mouse
    Soaking the pages of letters and pictures in a solution of drugs and water and then allowing it to dry before mailing it in has been common in some areas for years as a method of getting drugs into prisons. As early as 2000, it was a common way for methamphetamine (and cocaine, to a lesser extent) to get into the Arizona prison system, to the point that they eventually had to install blacklight scanners and check each page of incoming mail before they put a stop to it. Removal of the stamp has been going on since the mid 90's, at least. This is all in addition to physical searches, dog searches, and whatnot.

    Of course, contrary to what they would have you believe, the vast majority of drugs do not enter the system through the mail, just as they do not come in through visitation. They come in with the guards and are then sold to the few inmates who run that aspect of the trade in their particular areas. These few then repackage it for sale to the other "inmates".
  8. nitehowler
    Ive seen drops from ultra lite helicopters.

    Ive seen the arrow and the rock over the fence job or the hollowed out soap.

    Screws are good suppliers of drugs and syringes among lots of other things thats for sure as Toxin said above.

    Some people get their visitors to mix up their favorite drug in their makeup or soaked into their finger works just dandy as well.

    Swallowing the good old balloons or shelving them gets the job done also so ive been told.
  9. TheBigBadWolf
    Dudes, please keep this thread on topic, this is not to discuss the best illegal ways to get dope into a prison.

    A discussion of this would be against the rules of DF.
    Please take care, the last two posts are at least bordering to this.

    ..just saying..
  10. Mick Mouse

    Well, my post discusses something that is clearly mentioned as being over a decade old, as well as having been discovered and ended. In addition, the topic of the thread was on unique ways to smuggle drugs-in this case Suboxone, I believe-into prisons, so I would say that these discussions cover both unique ways as well as the various drugs involved.

    That being said, I understand completely where you are coming from with this and I agree that the discussion is starting to drift into dangerous waters. Good call, and I second TBBW's cautioning!
  11. Rob Cypher
    LOL, some of nitehowler's posts are quite revealing in ways in terms of what he's experienced in life. Must be an interesting character to know in real life, even if his posts often aren't quite in the best interests of harm reduction. :smoker:

    As for the topic; I had heard of people smuggling in LSD that way before; didn't know you could do with opiates as well. (Most drugs are ultimately smuggled in via guards or visitors; the other ways mentioned are much harder to pull off, IMO.)
  12. nitehowler
    Thanks Rob i must admit i do go a bit overboard sometimes and on occasion try to be a bit cynical.

    Sometimes i manage to raise peoples eyebrows a little too much.

    Ime just trying to give you guys upfront comments of what i have seen and done in all honesty.

    I spent a phew years in custody for MDMA supply. I was conned by an undercover cop.

    The fact here all through this thread is that no matter how stringent the drug laws get and how hard the authorities try to stop drugs. They will always be in circulation.

    This thread proves that 100%.
    Nitehowlers posts in this thread in my view can be looked at from many different angles.

    His information could help save lives of jail inmates by helping them to get life saving medications.

    Drawing the line between breaking the law and saving a life ...well i know the one i would chose.

    I feel many inmates just don't get adequate medical and mental health services and medication.

    With high suicide rates in prison with drug withdrawals being a leading contributor if the government won't do anything about it ime sure families will.
    Also if the information nitehowler has posted helps someone evade the law then thats harm reduction cause going to jails creates a window of opportunity to contract HIV and HEP.
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