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Arrest Of New Orleans Jail Deputies For Smuggling Opiate Drug Signals Thriving Market Inside

The opioid epidemic has created an underground market inside the Orleans Parish jail for Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat addiction, according to court records related to the arrests of four jail deputies booked last year for smuggling the drug inside, Nola.com reports. While some advocates say the illegal trade of Suboxone has become a regular occurrence in American jails and prisons, some argue that lockups should furnish the drug themselves. That could prevent overdose deaths, which become more likely when a person's tolerance is lowered during incarceration, said Dr. Lee Michals, Tulane Medical School’s addiction and psychiatry fellowship director. A June 2023 study from the University of California-Irvine shows only 14 states offer addiction treatment that includes the authorized use of Suboxone. Part of the issue, Michals said, is that many corrections officials believe the use of Suboxone, a Schedule III controlled substance, is simply trading one opiate for another. “It’s not seen as treatment,” he said. “Using Suboxone is not fully understood.”


The four officers accused of smuggling Suboxone into the Orleans Parish Justice Center accepted money in exchange. Joseph Giacalone, a retired New York police sergeant who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, called misconduct by jailers every lockup’s “biggest problem.” Michals said that a standard dosage of Suboxone is 8 mg twice a day for a patient hoping to avoid withdrawal. He said the amounts smuggled into the Orleans Parish jail last year by deputies were enough for illegal trading. Ideally, he said, Suboxone would be widely available as a recovery tool in jail. “If we’re able to bring Suboxone and other treatment options into the prison system, then it cuts off the need that can be exploited,” Michals said. “There’s a lot of goodwill... but it’s very hard to get in."

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