Netherlands Country Drug Report 2018

Drug use and responses in prison

The data on prevalence of (problem) substance use among prisoners in the Netherlands date back to 2009 and suggest that around 4 out of 10 adult Dutch prisoners had substance use problems before being imprisoned. In general, the prison system implements a policy aimed at discouraging the use of drugs, by creating drug-free settings, limiting the availability and use of drugs in prisons. Continuity of care and equivalent access to health services are basic principles of the treatment of prisoners.

The Ministry of Justice and Security oversees health services in prisons and funds drug treatment in prisons. Drug treatment measures in prisons include evidence-based behavioural intervention and mental care services. If needed, prisoners can be referred to treatment services outside prison (as an alternative for imprisonment). Repeated offenders who exhibit drug use problems on prison entry may be placed in an Institution for Prolific Offenders, which also offers several treatment interventions inside and outside the prison system. According to the guidelines on ‘medical treatment of detained opiate addicts’, those in methadone maintenance treatment prior to being incarcerated can continue their treatment during imprisonment.

Special treatment for those dependent on benzodiazepines or gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is available. To reverse overdose due to use of heroin and other opioids, naloxone is available in every penitentiary institution.

After release from prison, treatment and care services continue to be implemented by municipalities. Addiction probation often plays a supervising and helping role in this process. ‘Safety houses’ are networks of local organisations working together to reduce crime. To better combine and integrate penal and rehabilitative interventions for offenders, criminal justice organisations cooperate with municipalities, the social sector and care organisations.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.