Antipsychotics Getting Prisoners High

Getting illegal drugs into a prison is no easy task. Smuggling in contraband can add extra time on a sentence, solitary confinement or get a prisoners visiting privileges taken away. However, addicts that get arrested have to get their fix some how. So how do they do it?

While most people don’t think that antipsychotics can be use to get high, where there’s a will there’s a way.

“They call it prison coke,” said Erica in an interview with Albuquerque Journal. She’s 28 and served a sentence for drug trafficking.

drug court

What she is referring to is antipsychotic or psychotropic drugs given to her by the prisons medical staff. She was prescribed medication for depression but didn’t always take it how she was supposed to. She would pretend to swallow the pill, then when back in her cell, she would crush the pill up and snort it.

According to statistics from the Department of Corrections, about 70 percent of women in the New Mexico prison system are prescribed an antipsychotic, the amount of men in the prison system was much lower, about 30 percent.

Since prison Erica has gotten clean.

“That’s how some people get by,” she says. “A lot of people in prison are drug addicts. They will do anything for a high.”

A former inmate in the Joliette Institution for Women from July 2009 to June 2011, on condition of anonymity, said in an interview with Adam Miller that she was prescribed Seroquel after complaining of having trouble sleeping.

Seroquel or Quetiapine is an antipsychotic prescribed for  bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

Since antipsychotics are given out the way they are, addicts in prison use them to fill the void that has been left after the lack of the substance they are addicted to.  While they don’t give the prisoner the same “high” feeling they would get from other drugs, antipsychotics are widely abuse.

Antipsychotics effectively “disconnect” the part of your brain that creates dopamine, which is what is considered the chemical that causes addiction. Simply put dopamine makes you happy, when your brain floods with it you go into a euphoric state. Your brain gets used to the amount of domamine and thinks that it needs that amount to function.

It’s speculated that antipsychotics, even though they are basically doing the opposite of that, are addictive because of the calming effect they have. Another theory is that they alter your brain and mood just enough to cause it to want to stay in that altered state.


  1. I find the whole world of antipsychotics to be scary. That is some powerful stuff and it’s hard to tell how they will effect people. It’s often some scary side effects,

  2. I was intrigued by this post as I’ve always wanted to know how prisoners get by in terms of addiction. I had no idea about antipsychotics and it’s scary that these are being prescribed in the first place. And why is the percentage of men getting this treatment so much lower? In any case, it’s very sad that prisoners are in this desperate state.

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