Should European Inmates Get, Methadone, Needles and Condoms?

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Experts say giving European prison inmates drug substitution treatments, needles and condoms are key ways to help curb addiction and HIV infection.

“We support opioid substitution treatment and harm reduction measures, including needle exchange programs. These measures are crucial, otherwise we cannot tackle HIV and other infections in prisons,” said Stefan Enggist of the World Health Organization.

According to Heino Stover, a professor at Frankfurt University, only 60 prisons around the world conduct needle and syringe exchange programs. Some countries forbid condom distribution in prisons, reports Raw Story. Poland does it for religious reasons.

Statistics reflect that drugs are an almost inescapable part of the European prison system. 15 to 25 percent of Europe’s inmates were convicted of drug-related offences and one prisoner in six is a drug user. Inmates usually share needles, which leads to the transmission of blood-borne viruses, especially HIV and hepatitis C.

Professor Stover said that a study conducted in 11 prisons has shown that needle distribution does not lead to an increase in drug use. During the course of the study, no needles were used as weapons and no new cases of HIV were recorded.

The executive secretary of the Council’s Pompidou Group, a drug policy agency, believes authorities need to confront the drug problem from two angles. “[They need to] reduce drug supplies and deal with the consequences of addiction,” said Patrick Penninckx.

Opioid substitution treatment is also a way of dealing with drug-using inmates. “This will reduce illegal drug use, prevent infectious diseases and eventually save lives,” said Hans Wolff, head of the Geneva University Hospitals Unit of Penitentiary Medicine.

Seven prisons in Moldova provide methadone to inmates. Prison psychologist Svetlana Doltu has seen some positive results from this somewhat unorthodox practice. Inmates getting the methadone treatment have been “more willing to work and more tolerant,” she said.

Source: (Raw Story)