Crime among substance users is associated with pattern of substance use, social network and self-control
A study on crime among substance users was recently published from the NorCOMT-project at SERAF. More than 500 patients starting in-patient treatment or opioid maintenance treatment (OMT) were interviewed about their life situation in the last 6 months before treatment-start.
More than half of the patients entering treatment had been criminally active in the last 6 months. Primarily, they had committed income-generating crime. Dealing, smuggling and manufacturing of illicit substances was also common. Violent crime and traffic-violations was more common in this treatment-seeking population, compared to the general population.
Those who had committed crime used more amphetamines, and were more likely to use a number of different substances. This pattern of substance use could be part of an explanation for increased criminal behaviour, perhaps through more uncontrolled behaviour in general, or through a need for financing the substance use. Some of the study participants may also have used these substances as a means to desensitize themselves before or after committing crime.
Recent crime was also associated with having a mainly substance using social network, and lower self-control. This means that focus on sober social networks and self-control training (in particular impulse-control and planning) may be important in preventing crime. These factors are already integrated in some form in most substance use treatment; however the methods could be more systemized and should be evaluated to ensure they are effective.
Additionally, in-patient treatment centres may have a particular challenge when it comes to criminal behaviour. The patients entering in-patient treatment were more likely to report criminal acts compared to the OMT patients. The in-patients also reported more use of amphetamines.
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