Synthetic drug use is a growing public health concern. Synthetics are often cheaper and more readily available than cannabis and amphetamines, making them attractive alternatives to other illicit drugs. In addition, the chemical formulas for these drugs are constantly changing, making them difficult to regulate, and their detection is limited in commonly used drug screenings. Authority researchers partnered with WestCare Foundation to survey 573 state prisoners on synthetic drug use to examine prevalence, accessibility, motivation for use, and effects. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported any synthetic drug use in the 12-months prior to incarceration. Findings suggested a proportion of the criminal justice population engages in synthetic drug use and the findings were consistent with other research on synthetic drug use.
Police administrators across the country are recognizing the need to connect individuals with whom they come into contact in the community to evidence-based treatment to better address the large social and economic burden of substance use disorders (SUD), a chronic and relapsing condition. Police frequently encounter substance using individuals and their families in the community, and often have repeat contacts with individuals suffering from SUD. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of different police agency responses to individuals with SUD that are intended to prevent overdose deaths and divert individuals with SUD away from the criminal justice system and toward appropriate support and treatment.