Do drug testing in prisons reduce drug use?

Do drug testing in prisons reduce drug use?

Australian researchers question the need for mandatory drug testing in prisons.

Nearly 2 in 5 people report using illicit drugs in Australian prisons, including 14% who report injecting drug use.

Every Australian state and territory uses some form of mandatory testing, usually with urine tests, to try to manage this situation.

But researchers say there is no evidence that these tests are useful.

“There’s no evidence that it deters drug use,” says Dr. Jocelyn Chan, an epidemiologist at the Burnet Institute and lead author of a recent commentary in Drugs and Alcohol Review.

In fact, Chan says, there is evidence that mandatory testing can cause more problems.

“There’s pretty strong evidence that this punitive approach can cause harm and it also deters people from seeking treatment,” she says. Cosmos.

Indeed, the tests can be invasive and the penalties for testing positive can make rehabilitation more difficult. In their commentary, the researchers also suggest that there is a risk that people will turn to more dangerous but less detectable drugs in response to testing regimes, such as switching from cannabis to opioids.

“A lot of the things we do, including incarcerating people and trying to enforce abstinence, are often not evidence-based and can cause harm,” Chan says.


“There is evidence of what works, and it’s probably best to focus on that. For example, there is a lot of evidence that opioid agonist treatment in people who are incarcerated to treat heroin addiction can reduce drug use in prison and reduce the risk of overdose when they come out of prison, which is a very high-risk time.”

Researchers point out that methods other than urine testing can help monitor drug use.

“Surveillance is a critical part of public health. It helps us understand the magnitude of the problem and monitor the effectiveness of our programs,” Chan says.

“The best way to find out about drug use in prison is to ask inmates, and if you don’t punish them when they tell you, you’re more likely to get an honest answer.

“If you are looking for objective measures of drug use in prisons, there have been wastewater monitoring measurements, which provide a very good indication.”

Chan argues that harm reduction policies can improve people’s health more effectively than punitive responses.

“Sometimes when you focus only on drug use, you can actually create more harm,” she says.

“This harm reduction response is about meeting people where they are and, rather than focusing on drug use itself, it focuses on the harm that drug use can cause.”

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