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Injecting drug use in prison: prevalence and implications for needle exchange policy

Nat M.J. Wright (Leeds Community Healthcare, Leeds, UK)
Charlotte N. E. Tompkins (Leeds NHS Community Healthcare Trust, Leeds, UK)
Tracey M. Farragher (Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore prison drug injecting prevalence, identify any changes in injecting prevalence and practice during imprisonment and explore views on prison needle exchange.

Design/methodology/approach

An empirical prospective cohort survey conducted between 2006 and 2008. The study involved a random sample of 267 remand and sentenced prisoners from a large male category B prison in England where no prison needle exchange operates. Questionnaires were administered with prisoners on reception and, where possible, at one, three and six months during their sentence.

Findings

In total, 64 per cent were injecting until admission into prison. The majority intended to stop injecting in prison (93 per cent), almost a quarter due to the lack of needle exchange (23 per cent). Yet when hypothetically asked if they would continue injecting in prison if needle exchange was freely available, a third of participants (33 per cent) believed that they would. Injecting cessation happened on prison entry and appeared to be maintained during the sentence.

Research limitations/implications

Not providing sterile needles may increase risks associated with injecting for prisoners who continue to inject. However, providing such equipment may prolong injecting for other prisoners who currently cease injecting on account of needle exchange programmes (NEPs) not being provided in the UK prison setting.

Practical implications

Not providing sterile needles may increase risks associated with injecting for prisoners who continue to inject. However, providing such equipment may prolong injecting for other prisoners who currently cease injecting on account of NEPs not being provided in the UK prison setting.

Originality/value

This survey is the first to question specifically regarding the timing of injecting cessation amongst male prisoners and explore alongside intention to inject should needle exchange facilities be provided in prison.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

With thanks to the participants who took part in the study and the staff at the prison where it took place.

Citation

Wright, N.M.J., Tompkins, C.N.E. and Farragher, T.M. (2015), "Injecting drug use in prison: prevalence and implications for needle exchange policy", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 17-29. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-09-2014-0032

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited