Drug use and responses in prison in Norway 2017

Norway Country Drug Report 2017

Drug use and responses in prison

The Directorate of the Norwegian Correctional Service is responsible for the professional and administrative management of the correctional service, which consists of 45 prisons and probation centres throughout the country. An increase in the number of prisoners has been observed in recent years, and more than half of the total of approximately 4 000 prisoners are foreign nationals from both European and non-European countries.

Several studies conducted among the Norwegian prison population have shown that the levels of drug use and drug-related problems are high, especially when comparing prisoners with the general population.

A recent study indicated that slightly more than one third of inmates had used illicit substances while they were in prison, with cannabis, OST medication, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and heroin being the most commonly reported. Of those reporting illicit substance use while in prison, the majority reported daily use of one or more drugs during the six months prior to sentencing. Screening of urine samples of prisoners for the presence of illicit substances in 2015 indicated that cannabis was the most used substance, followed by amphetamines and heroin. In a relatively high proportion of samples, the presence of OST medication or benzodiazepines was also reported, although it was not possible to establish whether the results were due to drug abuse or the use of prescribed medication.

Drug-related infectious diseases remain important, as 1 in 10 prisoners is HCV positive. Moreover, many prisoners have comorbid mental health disorder.

A distinctive feature of the provision of interventions within the Norwegian correctional service is the ‘import’ model, which entails that external providers are responsible for offering the same type of services to inmates in prison as to other citizens outside prison. It is often the municipality in which the prison is located that is responsible for such ‘imported’ services and decides on how health and care services are to be organised. The public health regions are responsible for the specialised health services, including interdisciplinary specialised drug and alcohol treatment. More than half of the healthcare staff in prisons have taken a specialised training course on drug- and alcoholrelated problems or the treatment of mental disorders. A psychologist is available in more than half of the prisons.

The drug treatment available in Norwegian prisons includes counselling, motivational interviewing, OST, testing and counselling for infectious diseases, education and training, and preparation for release. With regards to infectious diseases, testing, risk assessment, treatment, counselling and information are provided.

The correctional service has 13 units for addressing drug and alcohol problems. Several prisons organise drug and alcohol programmes, for example the National Substance Abuse Programme, or motivational interviews to motivate inmates to seek treatment. OST is offered by the prison health and care services. Available data indicate that 409 prisoners received OST in 2015.

Prisoners should be tested for blood-borne diseases, such as HBV, HCV, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Unvaccinated prisoners should be offered vaccination if they are in a high-risk group. Needle and syringe programmes do not exist in Norwegian prisons; however, inmates are given access to chlorine or chloramine as disinfectant material. Most prisons have a reintegration coordinator, and a reintegration guarantee was introduced in 2007-08, which ensures that binding collaborative structures are established between the correctional service and public agencies when an inmate is released from prison.

Screening of prisoners in 2015 indicated that cannabis was the most used substance, followed by amphetamines and heroin


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