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Provision of harm reduction and drug treatment services in custodial settings – Findings from the European ACCESS study

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journal contribution
posted on 19.11.2015, 00:00 by Heike Zurhold, Heino Stöver

Aims: The aim of the study was to survey the availability, coverage and quality of harm reduction and drug treatment services delivered to drug users in prisons across Europe. Methods: A survey was conducted between 2012 and 2013 among the 29 European countries. An electronic semistructured questionnaire was sent to the national institutions responsible for prison services, and 27 countries responded. In addition, good practice interventions for drug offenders have been collated by 15 national experts covering 15 European countries. The interventions were described and assessed as to their quality through using European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA) standard tools for reporting and quality assessment. Findings: Drug treatment including detoxification and opioid substitution treatment (OST) is available in prisons of most European countries. However, OST is unavailable in five countries. Almost all countries provide prison-based harm reduction measures to prevent and treat infectious diseases among prisoners. Especially, testing and treatment for HIV and tuberculosis are provided, while other measures, such as the distribution of condoms or bleach, and especially needle and syringe programmes are still rare. Conclusions: Access to and coverage of OST in prisons is higher in countries with a long history of OST provision, while in countries that introduced OST more recently the scale of OST is usually lower. Access to hepatitis C treatment is often limited in prisons due to the lack of drug abstinence or a health insurance.