Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance abuse and criminality are invariably associated with each other. Many studies had already attributed a relationship between deviant behaviour and substance abuse. Lucas (n.d.) reported that National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES) revealed in their 12 months before and 12 months after entering rehabilitation samples that there was a decline in some drug-related criminal activities among the respondents.

Among the 4,411 interviewed, the respondents revealed that::“Selling drugs declined by 78%; Shoplifting or arrests for shoplifting declined by 82%; Beating someone up was reported by almost half of the NTIES clients before treatment. Following treatment, that number declined to 11%, a78% decrease; Arrests for drug possession declined 51%; Arrests for any crime declined by 64%” (Lucas, n.d.)The NTIES study also compared the efficacy of the mode of rehabilitation provided for the respondents. Their study showed that respondent undergoing “methadone detoxification exhibited little changes in all aspects” (Lucas, n.d.

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). “Those in the methadone maintenance programme had registered a wider margin of changes in recidivism compared to other treatment modalities. Clients availing of non-methadone outpatient facilities had a lower incidence of illegal support compared to those undergoing residential treatment” (Lucas, n.d.).

Best et al (2001) however, found that rehabilitative programmes had little or no impact on their subjects. For example, they compared 51 patients who were undergoing substance abuse treatment to 49 others who were not. They found that patients on methadone treatment reported they used crack cocaine more frequently (mean = 9.1 days; ±11.

8) compared to those who were not under treatment (mean = 4.6; ±9.4 days; t=2.12; p < 0.05) (p.

123).Marsch’s (1998) study focused on the efficacy of psychopharmacological intervention to curb opiate drug use. Marsch’s study, The efficacy of methadone maintenance interventions in reducing illicit opiate use, HIV risk behavior and criminality: A meta-analysis was published on Addiction as a research project correlating previous studies done on the efficacy of pharmacological interventions in drug abuse cases. Methadone hydrochloride is one of the widely accepted treatment modality for opiate drug use. In the study, Marsch collected data from 11 studies on methadone maintenance treatments (MMT) on illicit opiate use, 8 for HIV risk behaviours and 24 for criminality. The author used meta-analysis to compare the outcomes of three separate groups and compared them. Non-parametric tests were used to test the heterogeneity of the samples. To compare the effects size, the r-values were converted to Fisher’s Z-scores and compared to the weighted mean of the Z-scores.

  The Stouffer Combined Test in combination with significance levels across all studies were used to determine overall level of significance. The procedure was used to minimise the variability of the test cases. Marsch’s study was a synthesis of all previous studies done on pharmacological treatments for drug abuse.

Marsch’s study is replicable to explore other explanations to the success or failure of interventions. Methadone maintenance treatment is just one of the numerous interventions available. The study also reiterated the relationship between criminal behaviour and substance abuse. Majority of the respondents confirmed that substance abuse is always coupled with deviant behaviour.The results showed that methadone maintenance was most effective to curb criminal behaviour on drug and property related criminal behaviours. The author concluded that it was the indirect result of the MMT to reduce opiate dependence.

When drug use is reduced, the rationale to commit crimes to procure more crimes to access funds to support the habit was also reduced (p.527). However, the results should be treated with caution because the study only examined the statuses of those who remained under treatment throughout the duration of the assessment. The study did reveal that methadone maintenance treatment was most effective in reducing criminal behaviour and recidivism among the study participants. The effectiveness was evident across “ a variety of contexts, cultural and ethnic group and study designs.” (p.515). 

Author: Megan Guerrero


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