Return to Drug Use and Overdose After Release from Prison

A Qualitative Study of Risk and Protective Factors

Former inmates face many challenges in the post-release period as drug use and the risk of overdose is highly prevalent due to lack of social support, exposure to drugs in their environment, financial trouble, and difficulty integrating back into the community.

This study interviewed 29 inmates (recruited within two months after their release) and included questions about health care access, HIV risk, overdose experiences, and drug use post-release. Study participants were ≥18 years of age and spoke English. Current inmates and those released from jail (not prison) were excluded.

Key Findings:

  • The environment to which former inmates return contributes to an overwhelming relapse to drugs, alcohol, and even fatal overdose.
  • A reduction in environmental triggers and a structured drug-treatment program with gradual transition to the community can help prevent relapse and overdose in the post-release period.

This study was based on a sample population with the possibility of limited disclosure from the interviewees during the interview process. These results may not be reflective of all populations in all prisons.

The re-entry community that former inmates face with significant social and economic challenges make maintaining sobriety very difficult in the short term upon their release from prison.