Germany Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use and responses in prison

Since 2006, the Länder have been legally responsible for administration of the penal system in Germany.

The medical care of inmates is funded by the Ministries of Justice of the Länder, but differences between the Länder exist in the regulations and legislation that apply to prisons. Most Länder provide information material on the prevention of drug-related harms. Treatment for infectious diseases is also available. Condoms are available free of charge, but disinfectants are not generally available. One syringe-dispensing machine is available at one women’s prison in Berlin. Opioid substitution treatment is available in German prisons, but to a varying extent in the different Länder and the individual prisons.

In 2016, uniform data collection was introduced in prisons in all Länder to collect information on the current drug use of all prisoners during imprisonment. Around 1 in 10 prisoners is detained for drug-related offences. Between 2007 and 2017, the number of inmates in German prisons and the proportion of those incarcerated for drug-related offences decreased. Data from 2016 on inmates who have been treated for drug dependence indicate that most prison clients request treatment because of cannabinoid or opioid use.

In recent years, special attention has been paid to new psychoactive substances (NPS) use in prison. In 2016, a project was introduced in the Wittlich prison in Rhineland-Palatinate to identify drug use, specifically the use of NPS, which is not detectable by rapid tests. The results of urine drug screening between 2014 and 2017 showed increasing use of NPS in the Wittlich prison, particularly synthetic cannabinoids. Deaths directly or indirectly related to the use of NPS in prison have been reported in Germany since 2015-16.

In 2013, the Professional Association on Drugs and Addiction issued a recommendation on transition management, including continuation of services after release, the need to establish links with community services and the provision of vocational training and drug emergency training sessions.


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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.