By Roland Sebestyén
A police and crime commissioner has called for urgent action as the number of people addicted to opioids are on the rise in UK prisons. The plan would introduce a pilot programme which would see inmates given cannabis in order to curb the number of deaths associated with the use of more harmful drugs such as opiates.
In a study published in 2018, researchers reported that heroin is the most common illicit drug used in prisons in the UK – moreover, people consume heroin for a longer period of time during their stay than any other drugs, including cocaine and amphetamine.
The study found that the main reason behind heroin consumption among inmates was “self-regulation and management of difficult emotional states.”
As well as having a high rate of addiction and carrying the risk of a fatal overdose, heroin use also increases the risk of HIV, HCV and HBV infection. Data shows that heroin dependency is higher among those incarcerated than in the general public.
The Guardian quotes North Wales PCC Arfon Jones saying the trial could be the first step to reduce violence in prisons.
In 2009, more than 20,000 inmates got some sort of heroin substitutes, and many more were prescribed for medicines containing opioids. Experts say the numbers have grown explicitly over the last ten years and decisive actions needed to stop the trend.
PCC Arfon Jones said: “If they’re on opioids, why can’t they be prescribed cannabis?”
“At the end of the day, opioids are a damn sight more dangerous than cannabis. It would be an improvement on the illegal spice smuggled in by corrupt prison officers too. Let’s supply cannabis in controlled conditions and see if offences reduce.
“The aim of the game is to make prisons safer. If they’re serious about reducing violence in prisons they should be addressing the causes and that’s psychoactive substances. Plus, there’s a whole range of issues that cannabis would be geared to reduce the risk of.”
The Guardian cites the latest ONS data showing 88 people died of drugs between 2008 and 2016 in UK prisons.