A study led by The University of Western Australia has found traditional opioid interventions are no longer appropriate for most prisoners due to be released.
Research revealed methamphetamine use has become more prevalent than opioid use among people entering Australian prisons, yet most policies and research focussed on the latter.
“There is an urgent need for multi-disciplinary support for people who are incarcerated as they transition back into the community.”Craig Cumming, UWA School of Population and Global Health
The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review, took into account growing evidence of the adverse health impacts of methamphetamine use internationally, including a rising number of related deaths.
It analysed data from a scientific survey of the largest ever cohort of adult prisoners about to re-enter the community.
A group of 2698 men and women, from seven prisons in Queensland and five prisons in Western Australia, who were expected to be released within six weeks took part in the survey.
Rates of Sexually Transmitted Infections among methamphetamine users were estimated to be 1.5 times higher than in the general population.
Lead author Craig Cumming, a research associate from The University of Western Australia’s School of Population and Global Health, said the vast majority of users reported injecting the drug.
“Using only opioid substitution therapies to reduce the risk of blood-borne viruses among people in prison will likely miss a large proportion of injecting drug users,” he said.
Most of the group who reported using methamphetamine and/or opioids also had a history of mental illness.
Mr Cumming said more treatment options and support services for users of methamphetamine and opioids were needed beyond incarceration, calling for improved coordination of mental health and drug and alcohol services in prison and the community.
“Increases in fatal and non-fatal overdoses involving these two drugs highlight the ongoing challenges in preventing harm for this group,” Mr Cumming said.
“There is an urgent need for multi-disciplinary support for people who are incarcerated as they transition back into the community.”