Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News and other Busyness

Cannabis Use In Prison Falls

Prisoners switch to heroin as drug test crackdown fails

Squall 15, Summer 1997, pg. 5.

HUNDREDS OF PRISONERS have switched from cannabis to heroin and opiates since the introduction of drug tests in prisons, increasing the risk of HIV and hepatitis amongst inmates.

Figures which confirm pressure groups' warnings and contradict government denials, also show drug use is higher in private than state prisons.

The Prison Service's mandatory drugtesting programme was introduced in March, since when all prisons must test 10 per cent of inmates every month.

Cannabis can be traced in the blood stream for up to 28 days after ingestion, while opiates are detectable for only 2 to 4 days. With inmates describing heroin as much more readily available and only slightly more expensive, the temptation now to switch from soft to hard drugs appears strong.

The Home Office denied tests would encourage the use of hard drugs. But results show a rise in the proportion of opiate users in prisons between March and September last year, from 5.01 per cent to 6.35 per cent.

With a prison population of 57,000, the results imply that in six months the numbers using opiates rose from fewer than 2,700 to nearly 3,600, an increase of five per day. In the privately-run Darlington prison, nearly 21 per cent of prisoners tested positive for opiates, compared with less than 10 per cent in comparable state-run prisons.

Prison reform groups have called for Britain to follow Germany and Switzerland, who withdrew cannabis from testing after a similar switch to hard drugs amongst inmates.