From Black Mamba to pregabalin, the UK’s prisons have a problem with drugs

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr


From Spice to heroin to gabapentin, the number of drug seizures in prisons in England and Wales increased to nearly 4,500 in 2013/14 from under 3,800 in 2010/11.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the key facts and stats (many cited in this Prison Reform Trust report):




  1. Almost two-thirds of prisoners reported having used drugs in the four weeks before custody according to Ministry of Justice figures.
  2. 14 per cent of men and women in prison were serving sentences for drug offences at the end of March 2014 according to the Ministry of Justice. But only one per cent of people found with drugs last year were sent to jail.
  3. Almost half of women and just under one-third of men in prison reported needing help with a drug problem on entry to prison. These rates are lower than real levels of drug use as many do not admit to having a problem.
  4. Two-thirds of women and almost 40 per cent of men in prison report committing offences in order to get money to buy drugs. Almost half of women prisoners said they committed their offence in order to support the drug use of someone else, but only one-fifth of men did the same.
  5. Reconviction rates are more than double for prisoners who reported using drugs in the four weeks before custody compared with prisoners who had never used drugs.
  6. Just under one-quarter of prisoners said that illegal drugs were easy to obtain. Seven per cent said they had developed a problem with illegal drugs and a further seven per cent with other medications since coming to prison according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ 2013/14 annual report.
  7. 19 per cent of those prisoners who said they had ever used heroin reported having used it for the first time in a prison.
  8. Over half of prisoners reporting an alcohol problem also reported a drugs problem, with an extra 44 per cent saying they also had an emotional or mental health issue.
  9. “Legal highs”, especially synthetic cannabinoid products called Spice and Black Mamba, were cited as causes for concern at over one-third of prisons inspected in 2013-14. HM Inspectorate of Prisons said that the drugs were often a significant factor in many violent assaults and that current testing methods did not detect them.
  10. In 2013–14, only seven per cent of prisoners tested positive from random mandatory drug tests. But a Home Office study found that the tests “generally underestimate the level of drug misuse.”
  11. There has been a significant increase in misuse of two prescription drugs, pregabalin and gabapentin, with more than 1,800 inmates in prisons in England and Wales being prescribed one or the other – twice the rate of prescribing in the wider community according to a DrugScope report.
  12. Offenders who receive residential drug treatment are 43 per cent less likely to reoffend after release than comparable offenders receiving prison sentences according to one study.


More articles on alcohol and rehabilitation in prisons will follow soon.


TWITTER: @prisonwatchuk 
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/PrisonWatchUK

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