While many people believe prison should be a punishment for addicts and a way to help them realize they should avoid this behavior in the future, this is not really how addiction treatment works. Addiction is not beholden to reason or to the will of the addict, and in most cases, those who are incarcerated as the result of their substance use disorder will only seek the drug again after they are released.
According to a recent study, 25 percent of individuals who were incarcerated across fifteen states returned to prison within three years. Sadly, many of these individuals also tested positive for drugs at the time of their arrest. People are much less likely to return to prison—or to substance abuse—if they are treated for their addictions, a program few prisons provide their inmates. Those that do, however, have seen positive results.
People are seven times more likely to avoid substance abuse after they are released from prison if they receive addiction treatment while incarcerated. In addition, many different studies of the benefits of medication maintenance for issues like opioid addiction have shown that individuals are more likely to avoid substance abuse when they leave prison if they received access to medications while incarcerated. Addiction treatment for prisoners has also been found to reduce the rate of prison overdoses.
Still, many prisoners do not receive access to this type of treatment. If they do not, their likelihood of returning to substance abuse as well as to criminal activities is much higher than those who receive proper care for addiction.