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Studying the Relationship Between Drugs and Crime

Date Published
March 20, 2019

Sidebar to the article Identifying New Illicit Drugs and Sounding the Alarm in Real Time, by Jim Dawson, published in NIJ Journal issue no. 281.

In 1976, Congress directed NIJ to collaborate with the National Institute on Drug Abuse to explore the relationship between drug use and crime. By 1980, a team of four NIJ-sponsored researchers had compiled and published Drugs and Crime: A Survey and Analysis of the Literature.[1] This report summarized existing research on patterns of drug use and criminal behavior and the effects of drug treatment strategies on criminality, setting the stage for NIJ to launch its Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) program in 1987. DUF measured and tracked drug use among arrestees to generate reliable and current information on drug use in relation to the criminal justice system. After a decade of collecting data, NIJ refined and expanded DUF to form the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program, improving the quality of its annual estimates of drug use prevalence. ADAM was in operation until 2003.[2] The data from these two NIJ efforts proved foundational for understanding the changing landscape of drug use across regions and over time.

In addition to tracking drug use trends, NIJ has also invested significant resources in original research on how to decrease drug use. NIJ-funded studies in the 1990s showed that drug treatment could be integrated into the criminal justice system to effectively reduce criminality. Building on these findings, NIJ began to evaluate an array of drug treatment modalities for persons convicted of crimes, including drug courts, residential drug treatment corrections programs, intensive probation supervision, and systemwide approaches. NIJ’s drugs and crime portfolio over the past decade has focused on crime reduction by studying prevention and intervention strategies for drug-related crimes, tactics for disrupting and dismantling drug markets, and technologies for improved drug detection and recognition.

More recently, NIJ research has focused on the policies, practices, and resources available to law enforcement to deter, investigate, and prosecute opioid use. As part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s overall response to the opioid epidemic, NIJ’s current priority is to address drug trafficking, markets, and use related to heroin and other opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues.

About This Article

This article was published as part of NIJ Journal issue number 281, published May 2019, as a sidebar to the article Identifying New Illicit Drugs and Sounding the Alarm in Real Time, by Jim Dawson.

Date Published: March 20, 2019