Locked up and dope sick: BC prisoners fight for addiction treatment

published on March 18, 2016 by Garth Mullins in VICE News

Laura Shaver had a heroin habit for years. Sometimes that meant going into opiate withdrawal in a British Columbia jail: “You’re in a 4′ by 4′ cement cell. It’s way too hot or way too cold and you don’t get a proper blanket. You don’t know what’s happening. You shit yourself, you puke yourself.”

Plenty of other inmates were in the same fix: “You can hear people screaming,” she said.

Dr. M-J Milloy is an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Urban Health Research Initiative of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. “Some people say ‘going to prison is a chance for people to clean up’ but it’s just not true,” he said. “Drug use continues behind bars. HIV and Hep C is astronomically higher inside – transmission is happening inside prison walls.”

Without treatment inside, the risks continue. “When released to the streets, their tolerance has changed,” said Milloy. “They use the same amount and they die.”

But he says it doesn’t have to be this way: “If prison systems are not going to provide clean needles, you’d think they provide the next best thing – addictions treatment.”

After lengthy delays, Gillam may soon be receiving Suboxone treatment. He wants the judge to know this: “I don’t want to overdose again.”

View the full article