The Latest from the Department of Unintended Consequences

April 17, 2014

(ANH USA) – Are We About to Make Criminals Even More Violent? At least 1 million American prisoners suffer from mental illness, and of these only 15% of local inmates and 27% of state prisoners currently receive some treatment in the form of psychotropic drugs. However, under new Obamacare programs, many more of these sick inmates will be “treated” with these powerful drugs linked to addiction, cyclical crime, and violent homicidal outbursts.

Hitherto, state, county, and local jails have been required to provide healthcare for inmates. But under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states have two ways to shift this responsibility—along with its enormous costs—to federal taxpayers:

  • Medicaid. Many more prisoners and parolees will now qualify for Medicaid, which is expanding to cover more childless adults.
  • Obamacare. It’s true that the ACA expressly prohibits the enrollment of inmates who are serving full-time sentences. However, there’s a loophole for prisoners awaiting trial. This incentivizes cash-strapped states to sign as many inmates up for Obamacare as possible.

criminalSadly, because the ACA is based on a conventional medical paradigm (“drugs and surgery for all!”), it’s unlikely that newly-covered prisoners will receive the natural health treatments for anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders that could actually help. Instead, they’ll be prescribed psychotropic drugs that are linked to violent (homicidal and suicidal) and criminal acts.

Is it wise to prescribe highly addictive, violence-sparking drugs to a population already prone to violence and crime? There’s already evidence that psychotropic drugs—particularly SSRI antidepressants—may be linked to the rise in mass public shootings. On Time Magazine’s list of top ten legal drugs linked to violence, seven are psychotropics: three are SSRI antidepressants, two are another class of antidepressants, and two are for the treatment of ADHD. (To learn more about the link between SSRIs and violence, read our February 2013 and March 2011 articles.)

The latest possible link between mass violence and SSRIs just came out—the army has admitted that the shooter at Fort Hood had just recently been prescribed such drugs.

Antipsychotics are also extremely addictive: amphetamines (ADHD drugs like Adderall) and benzodiazepines (antianxiety drugs like Xanax) are both considered two of the world’s most addictive drugs. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 18% of federal prisoners and nearly 17% of state prisoners say they committed their offense to obtain money for drugs, while up to 80% of inmates already have substance abuse problems. Enrolling inmates in federal health programs could introduce populations already vulnerable to substance abuse to even more addictive drugs. This could serve to perpetuate—not break—the cycle of drug-fueled crime.

Given the high potential costs to incarcerated Americans, public safety, and our wallets, it seems a forgone conclusion that inmates should not be pushed into these drugs. How could states and the administration ignore this elephant in the room?

Perhaps it’s hidden behind the giant pile of Big Pharma profits and campaign finance dollars. Let’s take a look at who stands to benefit:

  • State and county jails are the biggest winners here. Because Medicaid is a federal program, and because they can charge the cost of the Affordable Care Act enrollees to the federal government, their budgets will shrink drastically—it’s estimated that $6.5 billion in annual healthcare costs will be shifted to the federal government (i.e., taxpayers like you).  And we can’t help but think jails see some appeal to a population controlled by drugs. What they may actually get is anything but a sedated inmate population.
  • The Obama Administration. If this fledgling program is implemented nationally,  there will be a huge jump in enrollment numbers—especially in the coveted young adult group as of 2002.  60% of the prison population is between the ages of 18 and 34. Although the administration hasn’t publically advertised expanded coverage for inmates, it is funding one organization that enrolls Illinois prisoners in Obamacare programs.
  • Big Pharma. Psychiatric drugs are a big, fat Big Pharma cash cow. In 2008 alone, sales of a single      schizophrenia drug (Zyprexa) represented 23% of Eli Lilly’s total earnings; Johnson & Johnson’s antipsychotic franchise generated $3.8 billion. This program cracks an untapped market wide open, generating billions in new sales and—since psychotropic drugs are so addictive—what      could be lifelong customers.

So far, only six states and counties are signing up prisoners under the new ACA rules. But if this program is implemented nationally, many of the seven million Americans behind bars, on parole, or on probation, as well as the thirteen million booked into county jails each year, would be eligible for taxpayer-subsidized drugs linked to violence.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time we’ve used government-subsidized healthcare to boost Big Pharma profits: after all, children on Medicaid are four times more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic drugs. Please note: that isn’t anti-depressants. It is highly toxic antipsychotic drugs that have not even been tested on a pediatric population. The FDA says that it is opposed to untested, “off-label” use of drugs. Why doesn’t it stop this cruel experimenting with children on Medicaid?

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