Prison and drugs in Europe: current and future challenges (EMCDDA)

25.6.2021, LISBON — Current insights and future challenges on drugs and prison in Europe are explored today in a major new study published by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). Released on the eve of International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking, the report takes an in-depth look at a wide range of issues in the prison setting, including drug use and harms, health and social responses and drug supply. It notes that, while, in several European countries, services in prison for people with drug problems have increased, treatment and care options available to this group remain limited and need to be scaled up.

On any given day, there are over 856 000 individuals in prison in Europe. People in prison are more likely than their peers in the community to have used drugs, to use drugs regularly or to experience drug-related problems. They also have higher rates of infection of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and tuberculosis. For those injecting opioids, the risk of dying from a drug overdose increases markedly in the initial period after release. Given that people in prison come from, and eventually return to, the community, interventions delivered in this setting are likely to have a significant impact on overall public health.

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel says: ‘It is vital that we have a sound understanding of the patterns and prevalence of drug use among the prison population and identify what kind of responses are available and work best. Often, it is in prison that people who use drugs access health and social services for the first time. This report highlights some of the challenges, but also the opportunities, arising in this setting to intervene and provide support to reduce drug-related harm. It also outlines how EMCDDA tools are helping to strengthen monitoring, exchange best practice and inform countries in their policy decisions and service planning in this area’.

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