Heroin, once the top illicit drug in prison, has been replaced by the cheaper and easier to smuggle suboxone, which was meant to help opiate addicts.
In the decade that I spent in the prisons of New York state, you will be shocked to know that I saw a lot of drug use. Ten years ago heroin was king; its availability set the price of things as varied as pilfered chicken legs, blackmarket Newports and blowjobs. But other drugs were always available; the gangsters smoked blunts in the yard, the white guys were all on pills, and the Spanish took MDMA and massaged each other in the showers. But it was always heroin that ruled the market.
The same stuff that had cost me a decade. I was in prison for robbery; it took a year and nine months of heroin addiction to take me from my desk in the publishing world to pulling stick-ups with a pocketknife. I got caught on a fluke and hit hard by the judge. Sentenced to 12 years, I did my minimum of 10 and got out in February this year. Never even heard of Suboxone back then, although I now know that it was available.
And it’s everywhere. Because of a national change in drug policy that encourages moving addicts on the street from methadone to Suboxone, which comes in the form of orange pills or sublingual strips, the prison yards of America are now full of inmates high on the substance, and it’s all over the streets as well.