Screening Tools to Assess Incarcerated Women for Opioid Use Disorder

Findings from JCOIN’s Kentucky Research Hub

Rates of incarceration of women rose 475% from 1980 to 2020, largely driven by drug-related charges, yet many barriers exist to the provision of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment services for women in correctional facilities, including SUD diagnostic assessments.

A new study led by Drs. Michele Staton, Martha Tillson, Mary Levi, Matthew Webster, Carrie Oser, and Carl Leukefeld with JCOIN’s Kentucky Research Hub and published in the Journal of Drug Issues examined available screening tools to identify opioid use disorder (OUD) symptoms among incarcerated women in county jails. The study's findings include:

  • The Alcohol Smoking Substance Involved Screening Test (ASSIST) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders-5 OUD Checklist are effective tools for OUD screening for incarcerated women.
  • High-risk drug use indicators were independent correlates of the NM-ASSIST Street Opioid scale, but not for the NM-ASSIST Prescription Opioid Scale or the DSM OUD Checklist.
  • Women with higher NM-ASSIST Street Opioid scores and women who have a polysubstance disorder are at an elevated risk for high-risk opioid overdose.

Findings underscore the importance of outreach and screening in jails to increase access to OUD treatment among incarcerated women.


Read the journal article


This summary is based on the findings from the following publication:

Staton, M., Tillson, M., Levi, M. M., Webster, M., Oser, C., & Leukefeld, C. (2024). Screening
incarcerated women for opioid use disorder. Journal of Drug Issues, 54(1), 57–73.