So many drug addicts end up in prison because of the desperation this disease causes in its victims. Addicts will often commit crimes to get a fix – including the relatively minor crime of buying drugs on the street. The result is that many people who need treatment for addiction end up in prison getting little or no help. An innovative and ambitious program in Utah is changing the typical pattern. It is helping addicted inmates battle their demons through exercise, setting goals and replacing addiction with something meaningful.
Prison Addict Problem
Prison is for punishment, but it is also supposed to be for rehabilitation. Unfortunately, incarcerated addicts are often overlooked and failed by the system. Nearly two-thirds of prisoners in the U.S. are addicted to drugs or alcohol and inmates are seven times more likely than people in the non-prison population to struggle with a substance use disorder. Of all the people suffering in prison from an addiction, only about 11 percent receives any kind of treatment. Addicted prisoners who do not get treatment are likely to reoffend upon release.
Addicts to Athletes
Some very dedicated people, including former addicts, are doing their part to help incarcerated addicts in Utah in a new way. The group, called Addict II Athlete, helps addicts achieve sobriety through exercise – specifically, running. The founder of the group, Blu Robinson, is a former addict who recognized just how important exercise was to his own recovery. It gave him purpose and replaced his habit with a feeling of accomplishment and well-being. The group is open to anyone, including the family members of addicts, and it is now helping inmates, too. The Utah Department of Corrections officially included the organization as part of its treatment options for addicts. Once they start the program, most prisoners are happy to continue. Treatment includes meetings about getting sober as well as training and running. Participants set goals and train for a 5K within the fences of the prison. Future plans call for a 10K run and a half-marathon. The Addict II Athlete program is new to the Utah prison system, but it is already helping inmates. The running keeps the addicted men busy, helping to relieve stress, and the races help them set and achieve goals. Finally, the organizers hope that the program will help addicts transition from prison to a sober life once paroled.
Exercise in Recovery
Any addict in recovery can benefit from including exercise in his or her daily routine. An exercise program helps you feel well physically, which reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol. It also reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Exercise, especially with a set goal such as a race, is a great distraction for addicts struggling to avoid relapse. Addiction in our prisons is a terrible problem. The system is flawed and every day it fails people who struggle with this disease. Changes are needed, even if they are as small as one volunteer program trying to help inmates reach their goals through exercise and running.