This presentation will assess the scale of the problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS) in English prisons and the impact they have on prisoner mental health. NPS is predominantly a prison problem – the use of NPS is much higher in prisons than in the community. Prisoners also have higher rates of mental health problems compared to the general population. The influx of NPS across UK prisons is exacerbating prisoner mental health, with the number of NPS-related deaths and suicides in prison increasing year-on-year.
The long term and short term effects of NPS use such as psychosis; violence; self-harm; and suicide will be examined. Additionally, the impact of the issues associated with NPS will be covered, which include bullying, debt and coercion; treatment dropout; and the currently unreliable prison regime. These issues also have a substantial effect on prisoner mental health.
This presentation is based on a service evaluation conducted across 19 prisons in England. Semi-structured interviews and surveys with prisoners, prison service providers, prison officers, governors and commissioners, outcomes from psychosocial group work programmes, figures from incident reports and findings from existing literature were used to explore how NPS affect the mental health of prisoners. Capturing the perspectives of many of those working with prisoners has provided a comprehensive picture of the problem of NPS and prisoner mental health, what is currently being done to tackle this and what more can be done to improve the situation.
This will all be summarised in the presentation through the ‘Prison Spice Spiral’ a simple, visual model explaining why prisoners use Spice in the first place and why they continue to use it, despite the negative effects it can cause to their mental (and physical) health. The Spice Spiral also shows the actions that substance misuse, mental health, healthcare providers and prisons can take to stop this vicious cycle of use and prevent the deterioration of the mental health of prisoners.