Research reveals alarming opioid overdose risk for recently released inmates

CORVALLIS, Ore. — People who have been recently released from prison face a significantly higher risk of opioid overdose compared to the general public. That’s according to a new study led by an Oregon State University College of Pharmacy scientist. The study, which analyzed data from Oregon between 2014 and 2018, found that the risk is ten times greater for those recently out of prison, with the highest risk occurring within the first two weeks after release. Moreover, women are at an increased risk of opioid overdose compared to men, likely due to the mental health challenges they face upon release.

The study found that many of those who suffered from an overdose had a documented substance use disorder treatment need before going to jail, and a significant proportion required mental health support as well. Researchers say the findings underscore the critical need for effective support and care for individuals transitioning from prison to the community, especially those with substance use disorders and mental health needs. The research team used several sources of information, including records from the corrections system, Medicaid, hospitals, and vital statistics, to determine the number of opioid overdoses that occurred during the study period. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the study. You can read Angela’s blog about the lack of treatment behind bars here.