Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy Study Finds High Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders in Scandinavian Prisons

Study Finds High Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders in Scandinavian Prisons

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are significantly more prevalent among prison populations in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, according to a recent multinational cohort study under Anne Bukten’s direction from the Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research. The study, which spanned from 2010 to 2019, highlights the urgent need for targeted interventions and treatment programmes within these correctional facilities. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

The study encompassed data from 119,507 individuals (108,971 men and 10,536 women) who were part of the national prison populations in the three countries during the observation period. The findings indicate that approximately 40% of the prison population in each country suffered from some form of substance use disorder. Specifically, the prevalence rates were 44.0% in Norway, 39.9% in Denmark, and 39.1% in Sweden​​.

A striking aspect of the study is the gender disparity in SUD prevalence. Women in the prison populations exhibited significantly higher rates of SUDs compared to men. In Norway, 55.8% of women in prison had SUDs, compared to 42.6% of men. Similar trends were observed in Denmark (43.1% for women vs 39.7% for men) and Sweden (51.7% for women vs 38.0% for men)​​.

The study further categorised SUDs into alcohol use disorders (AUDs) and drug use disorders (DUDs), finding notable variations in specific substance use across the countries. For instance, Norway reported higher prevalence rates for polysubstance use (23.6%) compared to Denmark (10.2%) and Sweden (20.7%). Cannabis use was also more prevalent in Norway (18.8%) and Denmark (14.9%) than in Sweden (5.1%)​​.

The research documented changes in SUD prevalence over the years. In Norway, the proportion of prisoners with SUDs increased from 29.9% in 2010 to 33.0% in 2019. Denmark saw an increase in cannabis, cocaine, and stimulant use, while alcohol use disorder prevalence decreased. In Sweden, polysubstance use and DUDs showed an increasing trend, though these were not statistically significant due to a smaller sample size​​.

When compared to the general population, the prevalence of SUDs among the prison population was markedly higher. In Norway, the rate of SUDs at prison entry was over ten times higher than in the general population (29.9% vs 2.7%). Similarly, Sweden and Denmark also exhibited significantly higher rates of SUDs among prisoners compared to the general populace​​.

The high prevalence of SUDs in prison populations, especially among women, underscores the critical need for gender-sensitive interventions and robust treatment programmes within the prison system. The study suggests that addressing SUDs should be a health priority in Scandinavian prison settings, as the burden of disease linked to substance use is substantial.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd