Federal prisoners are punished for using the addiction medication Suboxone

Congress passed the First Step Act four years ago, requiring, among other things, that the Bureau of Prisons offer more prisoners addiction medications, the most common of which is Suboxone. The medications can quiet opioid cravings and reduce the risk of relapse and overdose. 

Yet the federal prisons are treating only a fraction — less than 10% — of the roughly 15,000 prisoners who need it, according to the bureau’s estimates. 

The bureau would not discuss the barriers to rolling out the program more widely, but prisoners and people who work in the system described a widespread misperception among prison staff that Suboxone substitutes one addiction for another. There’s broad discretion among prison staff about who qualifies for treatment. The bureau also requires patients to get approval from multiple health care providers, and each step has its own lengthy waitlist.  

NBC Federal prisoners are punished for using the addiction medication Suboxone