Preventing overdose deaths in the criminal-justice system (2014)

The rate of acute drug-related mortality, or overdose deaths, among prisoners immediately after their release is unacceptably high. Substance dependence is a chronic disorder with high relapse rates, and often requires long-term continuous treatment. Trials and cohort studies give good evidence that opioid substitution treatment reduces the risk of overdose among opioid users.

This report identifies the main areas that need to be improved to decrease the risk of overdose death. Linking prison health and public health systems closely is essential to mitigating the risk. Recommendations cover preventive responses across all levels of the justice system. The report includes a literature review that identifies a substantial body of research from various countries. This research supports the finding that the initial post-release period presents ex-prisoners with a significantly heightened risk of acute drug-related mortality.

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