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  • Study on the prevalence of drug use, including intravenous drug use, and blood-borne viruses among the Irish prisoner population

    Posted on April 10th, 2014 TimB No comments

    Accurate up-to-date data on the extent of drug use and the prevalence of blood-borne viruses among the prisoner population are a necessary pre-requisite for health and social service planning and policy development. The most recent national study assessing the prevalence of blood-borne viruses, along with self-reported drug use within Irish prisons (Allwright et al., 1999), was carried out over a decade ago.

    This study was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD)* in 2010 with the following objectives: to describe the nature, extent and pattern of consumption for different drugs among the prisoner population; to describe methods of drug use, including intravenous drug use, among the prisoner population; to estimate the prevalence of blood-borne viruses among the prisoner population and to identify associated risk behaviours; and to measure the uptake of individual drug treatment and harm reduction interventions (including hepatitis B vaccination) in prison.

    This study confirms that drug use, including injecting drug use, is a significant problem among prisoners in Ireland and suggests that drug-related factors are important in the acquisition of blood-borne viruses. The findings also show that prisoners who need services, such as the range of addiction services and detoxification, are very willing to use them when they are available. ‘In-prison’ uptake of testing and vaccination services confirms that prisons are appropriate settings for the provision of preventive, diagnostic and treatment services for drug users. It is hoped that the evidence provided in this study will facilitate service and policy development in this important area.

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