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Study evaluates substance abuse in probation, parole admissions

March 3, 2011
by News release
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A new study shows that the most commonly abused substances among those 18 and older referred to substance abuse treatment from parole or probation was alcohol, followed by marijuana and methamphetamines. The study, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), also shows that more than half (59.2 percent) of those who entered substance abuse treatment based on referrals from probation or parole reported using more than one substance at admission.

In 2008, 42.8 percent of the admissions 18 or older that were referred to treatment by the criminal justice system, were probation or parole referrals making the probation and parole system the largest source of criminal justice referrals to substance abuse treatment. Among the study’s more notable findings concerning treatment admissions in 2008 involving adults on probation or parole:

  • The most common substances being abused were alcohol (30.6 percent), marijuana (26.4 percent), and methamphetamines (15.6 percent).

  • The majority of admissions were male (76.6 percent), had never married (63.1 percent), were between the ages of 18 and 44 (81.3 percent), and were non-Hispanic White (52.3 percent).

  • Over one-third had less than a high school education (39.6 percent).

  • The majority were unemployed (36.8 percent) or not in the labor force (26.2 percent). (Unemployed describes persons who do not have a job, are layed off and who have looked for work in the past 30 days. Not in the labor force describes persons who do not have a job and who are not looking for work due to retirement, disability, going to school, taking care of the home/children, being in an institution, etc.)

  • The majority had been in treatment at least once before (57.5 percent), and 18.4 percent reported three or more prior treatment episodes.

"While our nation's drug courts are doing a great job of referring people to treatment, these staggering numbers further reinforce why prevention is SAMHSA's number one priority," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, JD. "We can't continue to tax an already overburdened judicial system as being responsible for addressing the substance abuse problems in America's communities. It is tragic that people need to be arrested before they get help for a preventable and treatable health condition."

To reduce the impact of substance abuse on our nation’s communities, SAMHSA is supporting training for health care providers on identifying substance abuse problems early and intervening before problems compound. SAMHSA sponsored the study as part of the agency’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes and quality – an effort to create integrated data systems that help inform policy makers and providers on behavioral health issues.

Characteristics of Probation and Parole Admissions Aged 18 or Older is based on data from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS)—a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country. The full report is available on line at: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k11/231/231ProbParol.cfm. For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/.

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

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