Austria Country Drug Report 2019

Drug use and responses in prison

In Austria, the federal government oversees matters of imprisonment and detention, and a separate department of the Federal Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice manages the prison system. The most recent data from 2011 indicate that drug use and related problems are common among prisoners, some of whom regularly use illicit drugs, including by injecting.

General healthcare in prisons is subject to the principles of equivalence of care and the funding for it comes from public budgets, through the Federal Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, Reforms, Deregulation and Justice. Healthcare for prisoners is provided through health and treatment services, which are often delivered in cooperation with external organisations. As a common practice, service providers apply general guidelines drafted for health-related services in prison or adopted from other areas.

A variety of treatment services are available in prisons, including opioid substitution treatment (OST), detoxification and assistance with abstinence-oriented goals, if desired, as well as the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and other infectious diseases. OST can be either initiated or continued during imprisonment. Around 9 % of prisoners receive OST in prison, although this varies by prison. A few prisons have special drug-free zones. It is estimated that, overall, 16 % of all prisoners undergo some form of drug treatment in prison. Direct-acting antiviral treatment for HCV infections is provided in prison. Interferon treatment has not been provided since 2016. Pre-release support programmes are also available to prisoners, but they do not include pre-release emergency services such as naloxone programmes or overdose prevention training.

Since 2016, two national projects have been implemented: one to develop competences of staff working in detention centres and the other to prevent reoffending among clients of the probation office. Both projects include a component in the area of drug use and drug-related problems.


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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.