"It's probably going to save my life;" attitudes towards treatment among people incarcerated in the era of fentanyl

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2022 Mar 1;232:109325. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109325. Epub 2022 Jan 22.


Introduction: In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in overdose deaths involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl. The risk of death due to fentanyl exposure is far higher for people without adequate tolerance, such as those being released from incarceration. However, little is known about knowledge and perceptions of fentanyl among people who are incarcerated.

Methods: We conducted 40 semi-structured qualitative interviews with people who were incarcerated at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC). We explored the impressions of, preferences for and experiences with fentanyl among these people. Analysis employed a general, inductive approach using NVivo 12.

Results: We found that a majority of the participants were familiar with fentanyl, sought to avoid it and utilized harm reduction techniques when using drugs and taking treatment with medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) to reduce their risk of overdose.

Discussion: Our findings suggest that broad access to MOUD, especially for incarcerated people, is increasingly necessary in the era of fentanyl, both to aid people seeking recovery due to the increased overdose risk of drug use and to reduce overdose morbidity for people who use drugs.

Keywords: Fentanyl; Harm reduction; Incarceration; Medication for opioid use disorder; Opioid use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Overdose* / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose* / prevention & control
  • Fentanyl / therapeutic use
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Prisoners*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Fentanyl