VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — An estimated four out of every 10 people who get locked up enter jail hooked on either drugs or alcohol. The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office has just begun a program involving the medication buprenorphine. Doctors say it is helping inmates complete withdrawal in hours instead of days.
“Almost every drug I could get my hands on, I was doing,” said inmate Cody Whitney.
Whitney, 28, says he’s been an addict for a dozen years. He knows what withdrawal feels like.
“I’ve been doing it so long, it has just been constant pain, my stomach hurt, headache, my body locks up, and can’t hold nothing down when you eat and drink.”
The jail’s medical staff has treated more than 1,200 inmates for alcohol or drug addiction just since January. They now give buprenorphine to addicted inmates before they have to detox.
“The withdrawal is much, much shorter,” said physician’s assistant Katie Cartwright. “What used to take five to 10 days now takes half an hour to a couple of hours and they’re better.”
Dr. Abdul Jamaludeen say the buprenorphine binds with pleasure centers in the brain in a way that reduces withdrawal symptoms.
“Especially women who are pregnant who use drugs, because if the women who are pregnant go through withdrawal they can go through a spontaneous abortion,” Jamaludeen said.
Jail officials see buprenorphine as a possible way to reduce repeat offenders, because it helps them fight cravings.
“They will be less apt to rob or steal or feed their addiction,” said Chief Deputy Rocky Holcomb.
Whitney feels confident about maintaining the momentum that buprenorphine gives him once he’s released.
“It is giving me a new start, honestly. It really has.”
The sheriff’s office says it works with several local agencies to help released inmates remain in recovery.
Addiction recovery partners of the Virginia Beach jail:
Right Path Addiction Treatment Center – https://rightpathaddictioncenters.com/
Virginia Beach Methadone Clinic – https://www.methadonetreatmentcenters.com/locations/virginia-beach—vbmc.html
Edgehill Recovery Retreat Center – https://edgehillrecovery.org/
TROSA – https://www.trosainc.org/
Life Center of Galax – https://www.galaxrecovery.com/