Vermont Department of Corrections Health Director Dr. Susan Wehry says her state has 46% of its inmates on psychotropic medications which is the highest of any state in the country. Vermont also has highest number of inmates getting more than one psychiatric medication. The statistics are troubling to both prison rights advocates and corrections officials. “The question is why,” said Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, a Denver-based psychiatrist and expert witness who has studied prison mental health systems around the country, including Vermont’s. “They ought to figure out why.”
The problem in prison is (drugs are) given to a lot of people to quiet them down,” said prison mental health expert witness Dr. Terry Kupers, a California psychiatrist. “They’re over-prescribed for people who are not psychotic but who are not sleeping or who are causing disruptions in the prisons,” he said.
But Dr. Wehry says high numbers of inmates on psychiatric drugs is less a function of prisons than of prisoners. As reported in Boston.com, “Many arrive with substance abuse problems and soon learn some anti-psychotic drugs provide “a little buzz”…Many also arrive with several active prescriptions. “It is not at all uncommon for an offender to come in on three, four, five, or six medications for similar conditions” says Wehry.