Inmates Using Need Drug Education Class

by Mike Miller December 30, 2011

Members of the prison population using drugs – a good or bad idea? Really, can there be any good reason why prison inmates are using any drugs?

The youngest men booked into jail so far this year are increasingly testing positive for prescription painkillers, while fewer were using cocaine and methamphetamine, according to a new federal study.

Sobering Statistics

Just over 68 percent of all men booked into jail had tested positive for illegal drugs. Men 21 and younger showed the biggest shift, with 5.6 percent testing positive for oxycodone, a narcotic commonly found in prescription painkillers.

Meanwhile, the same age group showed a drop in cocaine and methamphetamine use. None this year were found to have used either drug. Last year, 7 percent had used cocaine and 3.5 percent had used meth. Opiates such as heroin were found in 6 percent of the inmates. Twice as many young inmates also tested positive for multiple illegal drugs this year as last year.

The increase in oxycodone consumption was somewhat disconcerting, as was heroin consumption, which remained steady. The study was done by the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Hennepin County jail in Minnesota is one of 10 sites across the country where the program measures drug use among inmates within 48 hours of their arrest. People who have been arrested volunteered to be interviewed for the study, and their information was verified with drug testing.

Marijuana, which can stay in a person's system for up to 30 days, remains the most commonly detected drug at the time of arrest of all male inmates at 53.1 percent, followed by cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine and oxycodone, which remain in the body for three to four days.

Among those arrested for a violent crime entering the jail, more than 62 percent had drugs in their system.

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