Known as a “miracle drug” to many pain specialists, fentanyl is currently the most powerful opioid used for pain management today. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. When taken under supervision from a medical professional, fentanyl can profoundly help recovery and pain management. However, the drug has become so widespread illegally, it is a factor in over half of all overdose related deaths, making it the world’s deadliest opioid. Specifically, fentanyl has become a major problem in jails, causing deaths to soar and making recovery complicated.


California Jails Have a Problem

overdosing on fentanylAccording to the federal government, the majority of inmates deal with substance abuse problems, many with opioid addiction. In county jails across America, overdose deaths have risen over 200%. California is ranked the third highest state for mortality rates due to inmate overdoses. In Los Angeles County alone, fentanyl became the most common drug type causing the most overdoses in 2022.

The cycle of incarcerating people for illicit drug use, then jailing them with no addiction treatment is a huge problem, says NPR. Additionally, inmates with drug addiction often use drugs by themselves and are scared to ask for help when they need it because of the repercussions, says the article. The help they do receive is often “scarce and sub-par.” The access inmates have to illegal drugs is erratic, making tolerance levels drop and spike, and with the nature of incarceration comes loneliness, boredom and isolation, the physical and mental health needs are not always necessarily met, states NPR. Solutions to this problem are slow moving and experimental, says the New York Times.



Naloxone and Suboxone

In response to record high overdoses, California prison systems are putting efforts into “robust drug and contraband detection,” says NPR, as well as a treatment program using Suboxone and methadone for opioid addiction. The theory behind this treatment claims that even if drugs are brought into jails, protection against overdose will be greater.

According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the nasal spray, Naloxone, a safe, non-addictive opioid antagonist, has been approved for use by all states. Five states have placed Naloxone distribution programs in their correctional facilities. Because of this program, two lives were saved at the Los Angeles County’s North County Correctional Facility that provided video training and access to incarcerated individuals.

fentanyl overdosing in jail

Overdosing in jail is a real problem in California

At one California state prison, inmates receive daily opioid addiction medicine as part of a recovery program while incarcerated, says the New York Times. This program aims to help inmates while in prison but also “unwind” the damaging effects of the drug before, during, and after incarceration. By targeting one of the highest populations that abuses fentanyl use, a more widespread tactic could be used in the future to help other populations, says the article.

Last year the Department of Healthcare Services in California issued a 2.9 million dollar funding to 29 counties to support Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). The program aids county jails and drug courts that hold inmates with opioid addiction problems through technical assistance, individual coaching, webinars, and ad hoc training. Through the methods of the MAT program, criminal activity and reincarceration has been reduced. 31,702 individuals have had the help of MAT while incarcerated, as of March 2022.


Death from Overdose In Jail Attorney

It is beyond heartbreaking to hear about jail deaths that could have been prevented, especially when it comes to overdoses. If you believe your loved one was a victim of a drug overdose that could have been prevented, please let us know. Our Civil Rights Attorneys want to help you find justice in any case of medical negligence because even if your loved one was an inmate, they have constitutional rights, too. Please contact us now.