Abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat addiction, is a growing concern among Vermont corrections officials.
The Burlington Free Press reports that the drug, prescribed on an outpatient basis for addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, is being diverted by the very people it was designed to help. People have tried to smuggle the drug into the state’s prisons in a variety of creative ways, including a ballpoint pen stuffed with powder from Suboxone tablets, and a poster decorated with children’s fingerprints that were sprinkled with Suboxone powder.
Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito told the newspaper that Suboxone is the most common form of an illegal drug seized as contraband within the state’s correctional facilities.
According to the article, Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) was dispensed in Vermont at four times the national rate in 2010. Some doctors in the state have recently stopped dispensing the drug, because they are concerned patients need more help in addressing their addiction than simply giving them a pill. Many patients who need Suboxone treatment also have mental health issues, they say.
Vermont Health Commissioner Harry Chen, who is a doctor, told the newspaper that Suboxone must be administered as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, which includes both mental health counseling and ways of detecting abuse.
In May, The New York Times reported that smuggling of Suboxone into prison is a nationwide problem.