ESSPRI survey (substance use in prisons)

The Survey on health and substances in prisons (ESSPRI) provides data of the prevalence of the use of psychoactive substances by persons in detention in France

Grand format
Couloir de prison


The addictive practices of persons in prison requires the attention of the public authorities and are referred to as a Public Health priority in the guidelines "Santé des personnes placées sous main de justice" (Health of persons placed in judicial custody) 2019-2022. 

However, before 2023 there was no consistent surveys to provide public authorities and the academic community with indicative markers to follow the use of psychoactive substances and health in the prison population, starting with a representative sample of the prison population. The only recent studies on the use of drugs in prison only provided data limited to defined geographic areas, on the type of institution and the length of incarceration.

In this respect, the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) wished to develop a random enquiry method to be used throughout Metropolitan France: the Survey on health and substances in prison (ESSPRI) is the first statistical survey to look into the consumption of drugs in prison, representative of the male population in detention in Metropolitan France jailed for longer than 3 months and younger than 18 years, all periods of detention, all types of institutions and all criminal categories combined.


Institutional and scientific partners in the enquiry are the Ministry of Justice (Prisons administration directorate), the Ministry of Health (National health directorate, Health care supply directorate), the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), the Directorate for Research, Studies, Assessment and Statistics (DREES) and the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED).


The ESSPRI survey has the goal of better understanding the state of health of imprisoned persons and providing data on prevalence regarding the use of psychoactive substances by persons imprisoned in France. The data from this survey will make it possible to draw comparisons between the results of this survey and health data and use in the general population of France and Europe.


The survey consists of questioning a representative sample of prisoners selected at random by the Prisons administration directorate. The distribution of self-administered and anonymous questionnaires was carried out in groups of 5 to 10 detainees, on a numeric tablet in the activities hall of the prison establishment concerned by the survey. 

The questionnaire contains a hundred questions around five themes: personal situation and socio-demographic characteristics; living conditions in detention; use of psychoactive substances, both licit and illicit; gambling and betting; state of health.

First phase of the enquiry (2023)

After pilot studies carried out in penal centres in 2021 and in remand centres in 2022, the first phase of the survey was carried out between April and June 2023, under the umbrella of financing by the Fund for combatting addiction. More than 1 000 detainees participated in the survey. 

Early results of the ESSPRI survey were published in French in May 2024. Their purpose on one hand is to provide an objective view of a situation, known by the academic world and public authorities but insufficiently documented, and on the other hand to promote a reproduceable approach at a national scale and at European level, in accordance with a recognised and rigorous methodological framework.