Three in four inmates struggled with substance abuse before serving time in Norwegian prisons, according to a new study.

Half the inmates in Norwegian prisons suffer from substance abuse, but there's only room to treat 3-4 per cent of them

“There’s a large, unmet need for treatment,” says Norwegian researcher.

Three in four inmates in Norwegian prisons either had a problem with alcohol, drugs or both when they went to prison. 45 per cent probably suffered from a drug addiction, according to a new study based on interviews with inmates in Norwegian prisons.

“There is clearly a large, unmet need for treatment,” says researcher Hilde Pape from the University College of Norwegian Correctional Service in a press release from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. She is one of the three researchers responsible for the new study.

68 per cent of the inmates that suffered from alcohol abuse, also had problem with drugs. The inmates that were addicted to both drugs and alcohol, suffered from more serious alcohol problems.

Half of the participants in the study were under the effects of drugs or alcohol when they committed the crimes they were serving time for, and when they committed earlier crimes.

A large portion of the participants in the study also had a high rate of alcohol consumption in the year prior to going to prison.

The substance abuse treatment units in Norwegian prisons only have room for about three to four per cent of the prison population.

“It’s a paradox that alcohol problems among inmates is given so little attention, both in the research literature and in the correctional service,” says Pape.

Read the Norwegian version of this article at


H. Pape, I. Rossow, and A. Bukten: Alcohol Problems among Prisoners: Subgroup Variations, Concurrent Drug Problems, and Treatment Needs. European Addiction Research. 18. december 2020.

Facts about the study

The NorMA study is based on survey responses from around 1356 male and 90 female inmates in almost all Norwegian prisons.

The survey was done between 2013 and 2014.

The participants made up 40 per cent of the Norwegian prison population at the time.

The inmates have also been through tests to identify alcohol- or substance abuse problems.

The Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF) at the University of Oslo are responsible for the NorMA study (The Norwegian Offender Mental Health and Addiction Study).

The study included use of the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT).

Powered by Labrador CMS