Bureau of Justice Assistance  |  February 1, 2022

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A disproportionate number of people in jails have substance use disorders (SUDs). Incarceration provides a valuable opportunity for identifying SUD and addressing withdrawal. Within the first few hours and days of detainment, individuals who have suddenly stopped using alcohol, opioids, or other drugs may experience withdrawal symptoms, particularly when they have used the substances heavily or long-term. Without its identification and timely subsequent medical attention, withdrawal can lead to serious injury or death. 

Deaths from withdrawal are preventable, and jail administrators have a pressing responsibility to establish and implement withdrawal policy and protocols that will save lives and ensure legal compliance. This brief describes the scope of the challenge, provides an overview of constitutional rights and key legislation related to substance use withdrawal, and outlines steps for creating a comprehensive response to SUD.


We would like to specifically acknowledge and thank the following individuals for sharing their expertise and input to the development of this toolkit: John Ackerman, RN, BSN; Megan Andrews; Kallan Carr, Michael Compton, MD, MPH; Warden Mark Cranston; Alexandra Duncan, MPH, PhD; Capt. Lee Eby; Lt. Jeff Gepner; Brent Gibson, MD, MPH, FACPM, CCHP-P; Dan Griffith, JD; Lena Hackett, MPH;  Steve Hanson MS; Jill Harrington, RN, BSN, CCHP-RN; William Jenkins, RN; Herb Kaldany, DO; Shannon Mace, JD, MPH; Marc Manseau, MD, MPH; Judy Martin, Ph.D., FNP-BC; Christine Murrell; Kelly Ramsey, MD; Stamatia Richardson, MD; Shannon Rickner, MD; Trisha Schell-Guy, JD; Maria Schiff, MS; Marc Stern, MD, MPH; Brandon Wood.

Read the report here.

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