Psychosocial Treatment for Inmates with Drug Problems in Brazil
Pp. 91-94 (4)
Cintia de Azevedo Marques Perico
Substance abuse is a significant problem in over half of jail and prison inmates.
Despite this, adequate treatment programmes are not available for them, which represents a
serious health public problem in Brazil.
Although incarceration is sometimes seen by many as an important opportunity to capitalize
on periods of emotional crisis and to promote major lifetime change, correctional systems
have no traditionally provided attention to the substance abuse needs of incarcerated
Certainly, there are several challenges in developing correctional substance misuse treatment
services inside prisons. Some correctional and treatment staff consider that drug abusers
present a “moral weakeness” rather than a illness or a biobehavioral disorder. Thus, the
treatment can be seen as ineffective or merely delaying inmates’ return to drugs and crime.
Anyway, treatment for substance dependence can be effective, and when it is it commonly
reduces any offending also. The programmes need to be long-term and require changes in
offenders’ thinking and lifestyle.
This chapter aims to comment on some aspects associated with the treatment programmes
available in our country. It is unfortunate that many people believe that punishment is
expected to rehabilitate all types of prisoners. The slogan “the more severe the punishment,
the more effective it will be” is frequently mentioned by different professionals and lay
people. Despite this, prisons should be used to rehabilitate criminals and set them up for a
new life with an improved education, job and social skills and a new outlook, whenever
Assistance Branch. Department of Psychiatry of ABC Medical School, Santo Andre, Sao Paulo, Brazil.