Two days following her arrest, a forty-four-year-old woman died in jail from aspiration pneumonia secondary to Untreated opiate withdrawal. The New York State Commission of Corrections concluded in its final report that had adequate medical evaluation and treatment been afforded, her death would have been prevented.
A forty-six-year-old male with a history of alcohol dependence was arrested for trespassing and held in the county jail. Three days later he became agitated and aggressive. Following physician orders, deputies placed him in restraints. He subsequently vomited and seized. Fifteen minutes later, he experienced respiratory arrest and died.
These cases highlight a serious, but neglected problem in jails across the country: inadequate assessment and treatment of drug and alcohol withdrawal among arrestees. In this article, we show that untreated drug or alcohol withdrawal is associated with adverse outcomes including needless pain and suffering, medical morbidity, and in some instances, death.