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UK Prison Docs Give Soon to Be Released Inmates Opiate Drugs, to Reduce Overdoses on the Outside

posted 03:27 AM EST, Thu April 08, 2010
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Prison doctors in the UK are getting ‘clean’ inmates back on opiate drugs prior to release, in an effort to reduce overdose deaths.

It’s a procedure, called ‘retoxification’ and prison docs say that for those very likely to return to drug use, it can save lives.

Inmates who come into prison with opiate addictions, and high opiate tolerances, are likely to return to drug use once returned to society. These newly released offenders have no opiate tolerance and a dosage of heroin that was once small or normal, is now enough to be lethal.

For these inmates, who are very likely to return to heroin use once released, prison doctors will administer doses of methadone in the period leading to the end of incarceration, to build up opiate tolerances to a safer level for street use.

While health officials say that retoxification saves lives, not everyone agrees with the idea of getting now-clean addicts hooked back on drugs. Conservative party criminal justice spokesperson Dominic Grieve called it shameful and said, "substituting methadone for heroin leaves criminals hooked and liable to return to crime."

An NIS official defended the policy and said that doctors will only retoxify in “exceptional circumstances.”

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