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Drug users in prison (DUP)

Studies of drug users in prison

National routine information on drug use and patterns of use among prisoners is rare. Most of the data available in the EU come from ad hoc studies among prisoners carried out at local level with samples that vary considerably in size and they are often not representative of the whole prison system.

Overview of the data

This section reports on various studies of prison inmates in different EU Member States and Norway over the past decade. Results shown in the studies cover a range of drugs including opiates, cocaine, cannabis and poly-drug use, and prevalence is estimated for a range of inmate sub-populations: injectors, males, females, youth. A further, more complete table is available in the supplementary table to the bulletin, indexed below.

Table DUP-5: Prevalence (percentage) of drug use among prisoners in EU Member States and Norway - full listing of studies.

The first table of the section, Table DUP-0 gives the source bibliographic references for the studies reported in tables DUP-1 to DUP-5.

Summary points

  • Data available on drug use among the prison population since 2000 show that, compared to the general population, drug users are over-represented in prison. See Table DUP-1 for the proportions of drug users in prisons.
  • Cannabis remains the most frequently reported illicit drug, with lifetime prevalence rates ranging between 1 % and 86 %, while lifetime use of cocaine was reported for 0.3–57 % of detainees, amphetamines for 0.3–59 % and heroin for 4–60 % (2000-2006).
  • Injecting drug use prior to imprisonment is reported for 2 % to 38 % of inmates (2000-2006) – see Table DUP-2.
  • Studies available show that 1–52 % of inmates report having used drugs within prison (see Table DUP-3) and that 1–11 % have injected drugs while in prison (2000-2006) (see Table DUP-4).

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2012