Too much or too little medication?

Lindstad M, Skurtveit S, Bukten A. "Too much or too little medication? A national study of prescribed psychotropic drugs among inmates in Norwegian prisons." Norsk Epidemiologi 2021; 29 (1-2): 85-95. https://doi.org/10.5324/nje.v29i1-2.4049.


Background: Prescription drug use in the Norwegian population is increasing. Knowledge of who the users areand usage patterns is a prerequisite for optimizing prescription drug use in all groups of the population. There are no updated studies describing prescription drug use among prisoners in Norway. The purpose of this study is to describe the use of prescribed psychotropic drugs among inmates in prison before and during imprisonment and to investigate factors associated with prescription drug use while in prison.


Material and method: The study is based on self-reported data from "The Norwegian Offender Mental Health and Addiction Study" (NorMA) which was conducted in the period 2013-2014 at 57 prison units in Norway. A total of 1495 inmates (96 women) responded to the questionnaire. We investigated self-reported use of psychotropic drugs related to: hypnotics, anxiolytics, antidepressants, OMT-medications, pain medication and ADHD-medications. We used logistic regression models to investigate relationships between different background factors and the use of prescribed drugs during imprisonment.


Results: Hypnotics were most commonly used, both before and during imprisonment. Twenty percent of inmates had used hypnotics daily during imprisonment. Inmates used more psychotropic drugs than the general population, with the exception of pain medications. During imprisonment, usage of most psychotropic drugs imprisonment were associated with symptoms of mental illness, harmful drug use before imprisonment, having received social benefits and to have had an upbringing marked by drug use and mental problems.


Conclusion: Our findings show that prisoners' mental health and substance use situation should have a high priority during imprisonment. It is expected that inmates use more prescribed psychotropic drugs than the general population. The fact that the general population uses more pain medication than inmates should therefore be investigated further.

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