Clinical risk factors for death after release from prison in Washington State: a nested case–control study

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Abstract

Background and aims

While mortality rates after prison release are high, little is known about clinical risk factors for death. We sought to identify risk and protective factors for all-cause and accidental poisoning (overdose) death.

Design

Nested case–control study of people released from prison.

Setting

Washington State Department of Corrections, Washington, USA.

Participants

Cases (699 all-cause deaths, of which 88 were among women, and 196 additional overdose deaths, of which 76 were among women) between 1999 and 2009 matched 1 : 1 to controls on sex, age and year of release using risk set sampling.

Measurements

Prison medical charts were abstracted for clinical information. Independent associations between clinical characteristics and all-cause and overdose mortality were assessed using conditional logistic regression.

Findings

Key independent risk factors for all-cause mortality included homelessness [odds ratio (OR) = 1.53, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.06, 2.23], injection drug use (OR = 1.54, 95% CI = 1.16, 2.06), tobacco use (OR = 1.51, 95% CI = 1.07, 2.13), cirrhosis (OR = 4.42, 95% CI = 1.63, 11.98) and psychiatric medications before release (OR = 2.38, 95% CI = 1.71, 3.30). Independent risk factors for overdose mortality included substance use disorder (OR = 2.33, 95% CI = 1.32, 4.11), injection drug use (OR = 2.43, 95% CI = 1.53, 3.86), panic disorder (OR = 3.87, 95% CI = 1.62, 9.21), psychiatric prescriptions before release (OR = 2.44, 95% CI = 1.55, 3.85) and problems with opiates/sedatives (OR = 2.81, 95% CI = 1.40, 5.63). Substance use disorder treatment during the index incarceration was protective for all-cause (OR = 0.67, 95% CI = 0.49, 0.91) and overdose (OR = 0.57, 95% CI = 0.36, 0.90) mortality.

Conclusions

Injection drug use and substance use disorders are risk factors for death after release from prison. In-prison substance use disorder treatment services may reduce the risk.

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