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Patterns of recent drug use among a sample of Australian detainees

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Aims. To ascertain the prevalence of recent drug use among police detainees.

Data. Data were gathered over a 1-year period in 1999 from detainees in four Australian police stations. Measures analysed include: (a) urinalysis results for cannabis, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine and opiates; (b) socio-economic and demographic backgrounds of detainees; and (c) arrest history and imprisonment.

Setting. Bankstown and Parramatta police stations, Sydney, East Perth Lockup, Perth and Southport Watchhouse, Southport, Australia.

Participants. 1408 adult males detained by police were approached. Eighty-four per cent agreed to complete an interview and 70% provided a urine specimen.

Findings. Cannabis was most likely to be detected, followed by opiates, benzodiazepines, and then amphetamines. Very little cocaine was detected. Around three-quarters tested positive to at least one drug and around one-third tested positive to multiple drug use. Significant predictors for recent drug use were age, reported involvement in illegal activities and prior arrest and imprisonment. Those who tested positive to opiates were more likely to be charged with property offences while those who tested positive to cannabis were more likely to be charged with a drug offence.

Conclusions. To monitor effectively patterns of drug use among at-risk populations such as detainees data collections grounded at the local level are necessary.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, Australia

Publication date: 2001-12-01

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