Worldwide, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths.
Certain sections of the population are more vulnerable to the risk of developing opioid use disorder and overdosing. One such group are those in the criminal justice system. Approximately 24–36% of all people who are addicted to heroin pass through US prisons and jails each year. Following release from incarceration, people experience a significantly elevated risk of opioid overdose as they are potentially exposed to the environment where their substance use originated and their tolerance may have reduced.
Despite recognition that those within the criminal justice system require additional attention and support, often there is a lack of screening for opioid use disorders and access to evidence-based intervention such as medication-assisted treatment (e.g. methadone, buprenorphine, and depot naltrexone) (MAT)- one of the most effective tools to combat addiction and lower overdose risk.
In a recent paper, published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviours, researchers from the United States discuss the criminal justice continuum of care for opioid users at risk of overdose, which highlights the instances where screening and assessment, treatment and/or diversion, and overdose prevention should be carried out.