People who seek opioid treatment are far less likely to run afoul of the law. That means less crime — and less imprisonment.
According to an extensive Australian study, published in The Lancet, opioid treatment may even prevent a first criminal charge. It’s especially preventative when users are continuously enrolled in an addiction treatment program. The crime prevention benefits dwindle, however, when users drop in and out of opioid treatment programs.
Opioid treatment include methadone, buprenorphine or buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone). The World Health Organization considers all three opioid agonists to be essential medicines. Perhaps that’s why they’re among the most widely-used treatments for opioid dependence in the world. This study also proves Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) can significantly impact the criminal justice system.
“Contact with the criminal justice system among opioid-dependent people represents a significant economic burden to society,” writes Natasa Gisev. Considering Gisev is a lead researcher at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales, she should definitely know.
Of course, “not all opioid addicts commit crimes,” said Gisev. In fact, “our study, showed 46% of addicts had no criminal convictions.”
Gisev and colleagues analyzed data for 10,744 opioid-dependent people who entered opioid agonist treatment (OAT) for the first time over a six year period. 53.5% of those people were charged with a criminal offense during the follow-up period; 49% were no longer enrolled in opioid treatment one year after they had started.
The number of charges increased as the number of treatment episodes increased. Men, enrollees under 25 and those who had pre-treatment charges were more likely to encounter law enforcement again.
The study was limited to addicts in New South Wales, where opioid treatment is provided free at public clinics and correctional facilities or for a small fee at private clinics and community pharmacies. Nevertheless, it could be applied to any place where OAT is widely available.
Effective Opioid Treatment
“Don’t be confused into thinking that OAT is a waste of time because ‘It is just substituting one drug for another,’” said Tim Millar of the University of Manchester’s Center for Mental Health and Safety. “OAT saves lives, is a step towards rebuilding lives, and helps reduce the impact of opioid dependence on communities.”
If your or your loved one is battling Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), please get in touch with ALEF. We’re here to help.