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Int J Prison Health. 2008;4(4):198-207. doi: 10.1080/17449200802473123.

Substance use patterns in newly admitted male and female South Australian prisoners using the WHO-ASSIST (Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test).

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South Australian Prison Health Service, Central Northern Adelaide Health Service, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



To report on the patterns of substance use in newly admitted male and female South Australian prisoners using the WHO-ASSIST screening tool (Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test) and observe the feasibility of using the ASSIST and associated Brief Intervention in this population.


Results of the first 518 prisoners screened using ASSIST in South Australian reception prisons.


In the first 10 months of the implementation of the WHO ASSIST, 518 clients were assessed in the 3 metropolitan intake prisons in Adelaide, Australia. This represents 31% of all male and 35% of all female prisoners admitted over this period. Injecting drug use was reported in the previous 3 months by 55% of men and 51% of women. The six most common substances used at high and moderate risk levels, in order of prevalence (from high to low) in males were tobacco, cannabis, amphetamines, opiates, alcohol, and sedatives. In women the order was tobacco, amphetamines, cannabis, opiates and sedatives equal, and alcohol. Fifty percent of men and 33% of women were using four or more substances. Overall rates of substance use related risk amongst men coming into prison are slightly greater than for women. Accessing prisoners for screening within the first few days is difficult with 55% already being released or at court or other external appointments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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