Health and social responses to drug problems in prisons


This paper contributes to a larger report on health and social responses to drug problems in Europe. The central aim of the paper is to provide an overview for policymakers, health and prison service commissioners, and providers and service users of how prisons may provide a setting for responding to problems associated with drug dependence. The paper first examines the prison context and outlines why it is an important setting for the treatment of drug problems, and describes particular issues associated with this setting. It then examines the health consequences of problematic drug use in the prison context, notably infectious diseases, psychiatric comorbidity and mortality. Interventions for drug users in prisons are then delineated, drawing on the literature on policy, drug treatment, harm reduction and preparation for release. Subsequently, challenges to providing interventions in this setting are unpicked and a case study of the ways in which Ireland has sought to overcome these challenges is provided. Finally, future developments and opportunities in this area and the implications for drug policy and practice are considered. 

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Additional information

This paper was commissioned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) to provide background information to inform and contribute to the drafting of Health and social responses to drug problems: a European guide.

This background paper was produced under contract CT.16.SDI.0142.1.0 and we are grateful for the valuable contribution of the authors. The paper has been cited within Health and social responses to drug problems and is also being made available online for those who would like further information on the topic. However, the views, interpretations and conclusions set out in this publication are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the EMCDDA or its partners, any EU Member State or any agency or institution of the European Union.