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OAT patients in prison are a vulnerable group with complex challenges related to mental health

Despite a significant and increasing proportion of persons arriving prison as patients in opioid agonist treatment (OAT), there is little knowledge about this vulnerable group.

Bilde: Colorbox

A significant proportion of individuals arrive in prison with challenges related to substance use and mental disorders. In a recent study from the PriSUD project at SERAF, it was revealed that people who serve sentences while in OAT treatment face significant health challenges: more than 90% have other substance use disorders, and over 60% have other mental disorders.

The study is based on all individuals who were incarcerated during the period from 2010 to 2019, encompassing a total of 51,148 individuals. Throughout the observation period, 14% of the prison population had opioid use disorder, and of these, 64% received OAT treatment. As the study includes a 10-year follow-up, it was also observed that the proportion of individuals receiving OAT treatment increased significantly, from 35.7% in 2010 to 70.9% in 2019.

While it is positive that more individuals receive OAT treatment during their sentences, it is crucial for the Correctional Services and the healthcare departments within the prisons to be aware that this is an extra vulnerable group of OAT patients. It is essential that those serving sentences with OAT can also receive treatment for other substance use disorders and other mental disorders.

The study has been published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence:



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