Consumption of psychoactive substances among 535 women entering a Lyon prison (France) between June 2004 and December 2008

Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique. 2012 Oct;60(5):371-81. doi: 10.1016/j.respe.2012.02.010. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Background: In France, recent data on the consumption of psychoactive substances (PASs) among women entering prison are virtually nonexistent. The objective of this study was to describe the characteristics of female entrants at Montluc prison in Lyon (France) and to estimate their PAS consumption.

Methods: Between June 1, 2004 and December 31, 2008, of 841 women entering the Lyon correctional facility, 535 had an entrance interview, conducted by a nurse, during which a questionnaire was systematically proposed; 306 detainees did not have this interview and could not be included in the study because of an immediate transfer to another prison or emergency hospitalization. Socioeconomic and incarceration characteristics, PAS consumption, as well as consumption level (occasional, regular, abusive or dependence) and psychological distress of the 535 interviewed detainees were systematically noted. This psychological distress was defined by the presence in the entrant talks or behavior suggesting clinical symptoms such as anxiety, depression, delusion, delirium, and mood or behavior disorders. Descriptive analysis was undertaken with the Chi(2) test and Fisher's exact test for differences between the proportions observed.

Results: The average age of the 534 responding detainees was 31.5 years; 59.2% had had no ongoing professional activity in the 12 months prior to incarceration, and 21.6% had already been imprisoned before; 37.5% of the entrants reported dependence on tobacco and 13.7% on alcohol; 6.6% reported regular, abusive use or dependence on cannabis, 20.4% on psychotropic medications, and 7.7% on other drugs (heroin, cocaine, synthetic drugs) in the 6 months preceding their incarceration; 39.2% of the consumers at risk reported using at least two substances; 7.1% of detainees were on opioid substitution treatment. A multiple correspondence factor analysis was used to note specific characteristics of three groups of PAS consumers.

Conclusions: More frequent among young women detainees, overall PAS consumption was quite close to that of male entrants, was greater than in the general female population, and was very often accompanied by psychological distress. Effective screening upon entry into detention should be carried out so that female consumers can be offered psychological and/or psychiatric care adapted to a prison environment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data
  • Prisons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychotropic Drugs*
  • Social Class
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs