Allies in Recovery member 123Peace is concerned about the likelihood that her son will detox from methadone in jail…
"Help – I need advice
My child has been an addict to heroin and is now on a large dose of methadone (since October). He has been in two sober houses in the last year and has had to leave due to using crack. Still using crack and staying with me.
He has been on probation and went to court recently (he tested positive for fentanol??+++) – they want to give him 2 1/2 years in jail – unless he has a plan: vivitrol, (which he tried and did not agree with him), IOP, counseling/therapy, etc.
He said he doesn’t care if he goes to jail – but just does not want to detox from methadone in jail..
Can you please let me know about detoxing off methadone in jail (medical attention, etc.)? He said that he would be so sick for months, that would consider suicide……..
Help – what if anything should I do????"
Did the court spell out the detail of the plan they propose: vivitrol, IOP, etc? They are not clinicians and cannot know what is best for your son.
Your son is right. Jails and prisons across this country, and even in Massachusetts where things can be more progressive, have limited protocols for addressing opioid dependency newly incarcerated inmates. If a person who is dependent on a drug lands in jail, health services are very limited in terms of medical care to help with detoxification. Methadone is probably the worst drug imaginable in this scenario.
Methadone is a long-acting opioid and can take three to four weeks to shake off both the physical detoxification and the lingering effects of the detoxification, like depression and insomnia. Being dropped from a high dose of methadone, without a careful taper, is frankly inhumane. Some jails now switch the person over to buprenorphine (suboxone) and quickly taper from that, but that in no way assures the person will be comfortable.
Just this week, I attended a chapter meeting of the Massachusetts American Society of Addiction Medicine in which this topic came up. We discussed ways to address this from a human rights, legal and/or legislative standpoint. It is a horrific situation.
Your son has the opportunity to avoid this. He needs to find and agree to an intensive long-term treatment plan. He may not be ready to stop taking drugs, but the forces around him are tightening. Assuming the court didn’t suggest exactly what the treatment should look for, here is what I suggest:
- He needs to tell his methadone case worker he is in trouble and needs more intensive help. They probably know this from the cocaine that is showing up in urine tests. It is their responsibility to refer him to a more intensive level of care. They should do everything in their power to get him there.
Your son may have burned some bridges with treatment providers, but there must be a place for him somewhere in the system. I suggest you call the Mass Help Line and get their suggestions (800.327.5050).
- Look at Module 8 and prepare yourself for a talk with your son.
- If your son is unwilling to go to more treatment and a jail stay is imminent, he should consider requesting a taper right away from the methadone. This is not a clinical suggestion on my part, but one based on the reality of what will happen if he goes to jail.
- I am going to reach out to you on email with a couple of other ideas.
I am shaking as I write this post. It is outrageous that we treat people who are sick with a brain disease in such inhumane ways. It is probably of little comfort to you now, but physicians and others in the field of addiction are increasingly concerned with the issues of opioid dependency and withdrawal within our criminal justice system.