Rhode Island Addiction Treatment
Heroin and opiate prescription drugs account for the majority of substances cited in the state’s rehab admissions every year. Rhode Island’s Department of Health reported that at least 257 people died from an opioid overdose in 2015 – more deaths than car accidents and homicides combined for that year.
In 2013, Rhode Island had the highest rates of illicit drug use in the nation – as well as the highest rates of fatal drug overdoses throughout New England.
The Rhode Island Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force believes a sharp increase in opioid prescriptions is the direct cause of the state’s epidemic. While most people start out by taking opioid prescription pills as directed, some might decide to take more over time to continue feeling the drug’s euphoric effects. Soon after, a person might switch to heroin so they can keep achieving the “high” they craved from the pills.
Another drug abuse trend causing alarm for Rhode Islanders is marijuana. Despite marijuana’s illegal recreational status in the state, usage rates among residents rival those of states that allow the drug, like Colorado. The amount of Rhode Islanders over the age of 12 who reported using marijuana in 2014 was 18.95 percent. That percentage was just above the rates for Oregon (18.92 percent) and below Washington (19.39 percent).
Mexican drug trafficking operations (DTOs) are the primary supplier of marijuana into Rhode Island, but law enforcement officers have also arrested a number of in-state offenders who cultivate marijuana for distribution. Marijuana and other drugs are typically trafficked into Rhode Island by a number of means:
- Moving trucks. Rhode Island’s well-developed transportation infrastructure and its location between New York City and Boston make it an ideal transit point and distribution center for drugs. DTOs traveling to and through Rhode Island are known to hide drugs in food, furniture or other means to conceal their efforts.
- Commercial airlines. Officials seize thousands of pounds of different types of drugs every year at the T.F. Green International Airport’s security checkpoints. There are several private airstrips located throughout the state as well, making it easy for DTOs to avoid the detecting eyes of law enforcement.
- Large ships and private boats. Drugs are often transported to Rhode Island’s three main seaports: Providence, Quonset Point/Davisville or Newport. Drugs are often transported by crew members aboard commercial fishing vessels.
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Laws of Rhode Island Drug Abuse
Rhode Island’s criminal justice system recognizes that many drug offenders have a substance abuse disorder, which causes them to commit crimes that fund their addiction. While most drug offenses in Rhode Island are met with stiff punishments, the state offers lighter sentences for people struggling with substance abuse.
Rhode Island imposes tough penalties for drug crimes; however, if an offender has a legitimate drug addiction, their sentence could be less severe.
Under state definition, drug offenders with an addiction must show a destructive pattern of behavior resulting from their substance abuse, including:
- A lack of control over substance abuse;
- A compulsive need and craving for the substance; or
- Continued substance abuse despite self-harm or harm to the community
A drug offender who wishes to qualify for reduced sentencing in Rhode Island must plead nolo contendere (no contest) for their crime. Afterward, they may be required to complete 100 hours of community service and a drug education program alongside their sentence. Failure to participate in the program results in traditional prison time.
Drug sentences in Rhode Island are also determined by the type of illicit substance associated with the crime. Rhode Island classifies substances into five schedules according to how likely a person would develop an addiction. Substances listed in schedules I – II carry the most potential for dependency, while drugs in schedules III – V are typically less addictive. Crimes that involve drugs in schedules I – II generally carry the most severe penalties.
The table below shows the maximum fines and prison time for drug offenders in Rhode Island, regardless of whether they qualify for reduced sentencing to treat their drug addiction.
|Type of substance||Maximum prison time||Maximum fine|
|Schedules I – II||30 years||$3,000 – $100,000|
|Schedules III – IV||20 years||$40,000|
|Schedule V||1 year||$10,000|
Rhode Island Marijuana Laws
Recreational marijuana is illegal in Rhode Island; however, it’s been decriminalized to a certain degree. While some charges only carry a civil infraction, violators intending to sell marijuana can be charged with a felony.
Rhode Island also enforces a strict mandatory minimum sentence penalty. This means that a judge has no power to sentence a defendant to less time than the mandatory minimum. In Rhode Island’s case, the mandatory minimum sentence for selling marijuana is 10 years.
|Amount involved||Penalty||Maximum prison time||Maximum fine|
|Less than 1 oz||Civil violation||None||$150|
|1 oz – 1 kg||Misdemeanor||1 year||$500|
|1 – 5 kg||Felony||10 – 50 years||$500,000|
|More than 5kg||Felony||25 years – life||$100,000|
Extenuating circumstances can also result in a much harsher punishment. For example, if a person is caught selling marijuana to a minor at least three years younger, their original sentence doubles. Possession while driving a vehicle will also result in the suspension of a person’s driver’s license for six months.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Rhode Island in 2006 to treat the following medical conditions:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Persistent muscle spasms
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Other conditions may apply, but are subject to approval by a licensed physician.
Addiction Treatment Laws in Rhode Island
Raising awareness about the risks of drug abuse helps communities understand addiction as a preventable disease. In the wake of the state’s multifaceted drug epidemic, Rhode Island is taking measures to ensure that everyone suffering from an addiction can get help if they choose. The state also has a number of policies and laws focused on reducing the harm associated with drug use, like:
- Clean syringe exchange programs
- HIV/AIDs testing centers
- Street outreach programs
- Recovery housing
- Substance abuse education
All of these programs has one unified goal: to ensure the safety and welfare of Rhode Islanders and encourage everyone to get treatment.
Rhode Island’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
Much of the U.S., like Rhode Island, is experiencing an opioid prescription crisis. In 2013, the state had the highest rates of illicit drug abuse in the nation, including prescription drugs. As a response to the nation’s high rates of drug abuse, many states have started using prescription monitoring programs to monitor potential drug risks.
Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are sophisticated clinical tools that prescribers use to help prevent drug addiction.
Rhode Island established their PDMP in 2012 to monitor schedule II – IV drugs prescribed to patients. Physicians and pharmacists can view a patient’s prescription history all the way back to 2004. From that information, prescribers can determine whether a patient is showing any patterns of destructive drug behavior, like doctor shopping (going from doctor to doctor to get more prescriptions).
Some highlights of the state’s PDMP to help curb future drug addictions from forming include:
- Requiring prescribers to thoroughly review a patient’s drug history every 12 months
- Slowly transitioning patients with an opioid dependency off their prescriptions
- Recommending patients at risk of an addiction receive drug education that includes a focus on discouraging the mixture of an opioid prescription with benzodiazepines, like Xanax
- Applying alternative treatment approaches for chronic pain sufferers
In 2014, legislation was passed in Rhode Island requiring all licensed physicians be registered for the PDMP. That way, every medical professional has the opportunity to help patients end their cycle of prescription drug abuse.
Rhode Island’s Adult Drug Court Program
Rhode Island’s Superior Court understands that the path to recovery for addicted drug offenders is treatment – not time in prison. The state began its Adult Drug Court Program in an effort to help drug offenders return to society as healthy, non-offending citizens.
The program is open to people charged with a non-violent drug or alcohol offense who also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. Rather than face prison time, participants go through a year of substance treatment, random screenings and court appearances. Once they graduate the program, their drug offense is expunged from their criminal record.
Research shows that Rhode Island’s Adult Drug Court program has a positive impact on people and communities. For those who graduate the program, their recidivism rate is 50 percent lower than people released from prison.
“It’s good motivation, first and foremost, for a person to get clean and sober, get some clean time under their belt … And if you can help somebody, get them on the path to sobriety, they have a much better chance of keeping the families together.”
Treatment Centers in Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s Substance Abuse Disorder Treatment Services and Prevention Information program is in charge of the statewide system of substance abuse treatment centers. Thanks to the state’s comprehensive network of inpatient and outpatient rehabs, peer recovery services, individual and family counseling and sober living homes, residents from all walks of life can recover from their addiction.
Despite the wide array of treatment options available, some people still hesitate to go to rehab. One of the biggest reasons people avoid getting treatment is because of the stigma tied to addiction. They might be afraid of being judged for their decision to get treatment. But there are organizations that exist for the sole purpose of shattering the stigma of addiction – the Rhode Island Communities for Addiction Recovery Efforts (RICARES) is one of them. In addition to working side by side with various mental health organizations, RICARES partners with faith-based communities, youth organizations, and other nonprofits to educate a broader audience about recovery. The goal of RICARE is to break down barriers for people who hesitate to get treatment through recovery advocacy and public education.
Once you decide to get treatment, the next step is deciding what you want in a rehab center. No two rehab centers are the same, so it’s important to think about the type of programs and amenities you’re looking for. Many people come to realize that an in-state program doesn’t offer the type of treatment they need, so they opt to travel to an out-of-state rehab instead.
Getting your life back from the grip of an addiction takes discipline, commitment and patience. When you undergo treatment at a licensed rehab center, you’ll receive the tools you need to recover and stay sober for life.
Don’t allow your addiction to control you any longer. Contact a treatment provider now to talk about rehab options.