Best drug treatment practice in prison

The EMCDDA best practice portal is a valuable resource for commissioners, practitioners and researchers looking to ensure that their work is based on the best possible evidence.

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Best practice portal

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction has a very helpful best practice portal which collates key research, real world examples of best practice, tools, resources and guidelines in the same online space.

In its prison section of the best practice portal, the EMCDDA notes that:

Prisons are one of the most important settings to provide interventions aimed at drug users, both in terms of treatment and harm reduction.

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Research

The EMCDDA highlights four key lessons from the research about interventions which are proven to work:

  • Opioid substitution treatment reduces drug-related deaths. This is particularly important when drug users are released from prison and they need to find continuity of treatment in the community.
  • Substitution treatment is also particularly important in prison as it reduces injecting risk behaviours.
  • Psychosocial treatments reduce the re-incarceration rates in female drug-using offenders.
  • For drug-using offenders the use of naltrexone seems to help to reduce their re-incarceration rates.

On two other issues, the EMCDDA reports that the research is unclear:

  • It is unclear if pharmacological treatment can help drug-using offenders to reduce use and criminal activity. (My understanding of UK research is that there is good evidence to say that methadone prescription reduces criminal activity – you can check out the evidence base yourself here.)
  • It is unclear if the provision of needles and syringes in prison help prevent infections and reduce risky behaviours.

The EMCDDA reports that it is not currently aware of any prison-based interventions which are proved to cause harm.

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Practice

The best practice section provides information about 24 different interventions from 11 different European countries.

These include a wide range of approaches including:

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Conclusions

The EMCDDA best practice portal is a valuable resource for commissioners, practitioners and researchers looking to ensure that their work is based on the best possible evidence.

The video below provides a brief introduction:

 

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