Norway Country Drug Report 2018

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. An increase in the number of prisoners has been observed in recent years.

Several studies conducted among the Norwegian prison population indicate 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 just over one third of inmates had used illicit substances while they were in prison, with cannabis, opioid substitution treatment (OST) medication, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and heroin being the most commonly reported. Around 1 in 10 prisoners have hepatitis C virus infection. A recent study documented a particularly high overdose mortality rate in the first days and the first weeks following release. Overdose deaths accounted for 85 % (n = 123) of all deaths during the first week following release.

A distinctive feature of the provision of interventions within the Norwegian correctional service is the ‘import’ model, which means 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 has been trained on drug- and alcohol-related 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 271 prisoners received OST in 2016.

Prisoners are tested for blood-borne diseases and sexually transmitted diseases. Vaccination programmes are available for inmates at high risk. 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.


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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.