Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

The Treatment of Drug Addicts in the Prison System

Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

The Treatment of Drug Addicts in the Prison System

Article excerpt


A great number of persons addicted to drugs are in the prison system. According to Walmsey,1 the significant increase in the prisoners' population in the world (estimated to 9 million prisoners in prisons of 211 countries) can be attributed to an increased criminal activity in persons using illicit drugs. Reports on the number of crimes linked to drugs (possession, trafficking) are various since the number of these crimes depends on a certain country's penal policy and policy of fighting substance abuse. In all countries the increase in the number of crimes connected to use, possession and trafficking of opioid drugs is significant.2 In our country the number of prisoners-opioid drug addicts (with or without imposed treatment measures) referred to serve time in the period of fifteen years has increased considerably. According to the data of the Administration for the prison system, in 1994 only 54 addicts were referred to serve time, while ten years later as many as 566 addicts were referred to the penal system.3·4 The annual report of the Administration for the prison system showed that during 2008 there were 1058 prisoners addicted to psychoactive drugs who were referred to serve time.5

The number of addicts in penitentiaries and prisons is constant, and the highest rate was registered in 1999 (459 addicts). That was probably due to the reform of the criminal legislation carried out in 1998. According to the new article 173 of the Criminal Law,6 every possession of opioid drugs is a crime. The increase in crime commitment can be explained by the occurrence of comorbidity, in which case addiction is in comorbidity with psychiatric disorders, or the psychiatric disorders are in comorbidity with psychoactive substance abuse and psychoactive substance addiction.78 A big increase in the number of addicts was registered last year too, which suggests an increase in the phenomenon of substance abuse in our country. Based on these trends Croatia does not differ significantly from developed countries of Western Europe and new EU members.9

So, the treatment of drug addicts in the prison system is important because in the last fifteen years the share of opioid drug addicts in the prison population increased making prisoners the most numerous group of prisoners. Besides that, the treatment of drug addicts while they are serving time leads to a reduced addict recidivism and criminal activity when released.10

Addicts are more prone to the development of mental and physical consequences of drug use and the danger of over-dose, suicidal behavior, self-injury and hetero-aggressive behavior is also present. Considering their risky behavior, what is necessary is a systematic treatment consisting of preventive measures, treatment and rehabilitation which is very significant after being released from prison. Data suggest there are around 70 to 80% of prisoners imprisoned due to drug related crimes who were not included in special programs, so they relapse after being released.11 The riskiest moment in the treatment of addicts is the release when relapse and the death risk to overdose are very possible. Due to a big number of addicts sent to prisons, penitentiaries and correctional institutions, there is a continuous need to ensure better conditions for their treatment.

The treatment of prisons addicted to drugs is part of the National strategy for fighting opioid drugs' abuse.1213 Besides adequate programs' implementation, adequate space, professional teams, a continuous education of judicial police, health workers and expert personnel (social workers, pedagogues, psychologists).

The basis for the treatment of opioid drug addicts in prison is the Law on the execution of prison sentences14 according to which prison sentences and safety measures of compulsory addiction treatment have to be carried out in penitentiaries, prisoners who have compulsory treatment and who were included in socio-therapeutic procedures before imprisonment will be referred to a special penitentiary, and that the measure of compulsory addiction treatment is carried out in accordance with the National program for fighting against addiction. …

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