SC prison to treat drug addiction with digital therapy

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — The South Carolina Department of Corrections will offer a new digital follow-up service to support substance abuse therapy for inmates at the state’s main women’s prison.

Eligible inmates will report their substance use, cravings and triggers on a smart device, and counselors will use the results to inform their therapy sessions. The $159,840 program is funded by SC’s Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. Pear Therapeutics, Inc., said its program is the first of its kind in a US prison.

“We are thrilled to begin this cutting-edge treatment for our inmates who suffer from addiction,” SCDC Director Bryan Stirling said in a press release Thursday.

The Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Facility will offer the FDA-cleared tracking software as a 90-day treatment intended to increase abstinence and boost participation in cognitive behavioral therapy programs.

The safety warnings say the devices are designed to work alongside existing medications and in-person clinical contact. A prison spokesperson, Chrysti Shain, said those incarcerated will still receive the therapy required by federal regulators.

When used outside of prisons, digital therapies can incentivize users through non-monetary rewards and retail gift cards. Behind bars, participants will earn digital badges and rewards, including “increased canteen spending, homework passes, increased tablet time, no chores or chores,” according to Shain.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that 85% of the nation’s prison population has an active substance use disorder or has been imprisoned for drug-related crimes. The agency and society said that in the first two weeks after release, formerly incarcerated people are 40 times more likely to die from an opioid overdose than those in the general population.

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