Prevalence and trends of non-medical opioid and other drug use histories among federal correctional inmates in methadone maintenance treatment in Canada

Sara Johnson, Shanna Farrell MacDonald, Madelon Cheverie, Christina Myrick, Benedikt Fischer
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2012 July 1, 124 (1-2): 172-6

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of illicit drug use among correctional populations is high, and associated with high levels of drug related morbidity risks and harms. The purpose of this study was to examine temporal and regional patterns of illicit drug use among a sample of Canadian federal correctional inmates participating in correctional methadone maintenance treatment (MMT).

METHODS: Socio-demographic and drug use data collected from 1272 male federal offenders admitted to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC) MMT program between 2003 and 2008 were examined. Univariate analyses were conducted on inmates' key demographic and correctional characteristics, pre-MMT opioid use and other problematic drug use, and opioid and injecting use while incarcerated. Bivariate associations on drug use measures across regions and over time were computed.

RESULTS: Prevalence of heroin use decreased, and prevalence of prescription opioid (PO) use increased over the study period. Significant regional differences existed for PO use, specifically for morphine/hydromorphone and oxycodone use. The majority used opioids and injected while incarcerated, with overall downward trends over time and regional variations. Approximately half the sample indicated a history of lifetime non-opioid problematic drug use, most commonly cocaine (72%) for which substantial regional differences were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Pre-MMT opioid and other problematic non-opioid drug use in the sample was high. Temporal and regional patterns of drug use observed may reflect developments in the general population, e.g. increasing PO misuse. The observed drug use patterns underscore the need for targeted drug specific prevention/treatment measures in correctional environments beyond existing interventions.

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