Substance Use, Disordered Eating, and Weight Gain: Describing the Prevention and Treatment Needs of Incarcerated Women

J Correct Health Care. 2016 Apr;22(2):139-45. doi: 10.1177/1078345816634692.


Weight-related concerns are associated with women's substance use and treatment relapse. The prevalence of overweight, obesity, disordered eating behavior, and substance abuse history was assessed among female inmates incarcerated for 6 to 24 months at an Oregon state prison, using a self-administered survey and physical measurements. Average weight gain was 20 pounds, 87% of women were overweight (39%) or obese (48%), and 24% reported using one or more unhealthy strategies to lose weight in the past 6 months. Women who used tobacco and illicit substances before incarceration gained more weight. Integrating nutrition and weight gain issues into substance abuse treatment could benefit incarcerated women--both soon after entering prison to prevent weight gain and close to release to prevent relapse into substance use.

Keywords: obesity; prisoners; substance-related disorders; treatment needs; women’s health.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Oregon
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Weight Gain
  • Women's Health