There is a high risk of death from opioid overdose following release from prison. Efforts to develop and implement overdose prevention programs for justice-involved populations have increased in recent years. An understanding of the gaps in knowledge on prevention interventions is needed to accelerate development, implementation, and dissemination of effective strategies.
A systematic search process identified 43 published papers addressing opioid overdose prevention in criminal justice settings or among justice-involved populations from 2010 to February 2020. Cross-cutting themes were identified, coded and qualitatively analyzed.
Papers were coded into five categories: acceptability (n = 8), accessibility (n = 4), effectiveness (n = 5), feasibility (n = 7), and participant overdose risk (n = 19). Common themes were: (1) Acceptability of naloxone is associated with injection drug use, overdose history, and perceived risk within the situational context; (2) Accessibility of naloxone is a function of the interface between corrections and community; (3) Evaluations of overdose prevention interventions are few, but generally show increases in knowledge or reductions in opioid overdose; (4) Coordinated efforts are needed to implement prevention interventions, address logistical challenges, and develop linkages between corrections and community providers; (5) Overdose is highest immediately following release from prison or jail, often preceded by service-system interactions, and associated with drug-use severity, injection use, and mental health disorders, as well as risks in the post-release environment.
Study findings can inform the development of overdose prevention interventions that target justice-involved individuals and policies to support their implementation across criminal justice and community-based service systems.