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Addenda results

Prescription drugs addendum

A specialised addendum focusing on the use of prescription drugs was implemented across all sites during quarter 1 of 2009. The addendum incorporated many of the original elements from a 2007 addendum designed in collaboration with Edith Cowan University and Western Australia Police.

Of the adult detainee population, 19 percent reported having used prescription drugs at least once in the previous 12 months for non-medical purposes. Of these detainees, diazepam (41%) was the prescription drug most often used, followed by alprazolam (24%), morphine (19%), unspecified opiates (13%), oxazepam (9%) and antipsychotics (8%). One in five detainees also reported that diazepam (26%) was their preferred prescription drug for non-medical use in the previous 12 months.

Detainees were also asked how they obtained their preferred prescription drug and were allowed to nominate multiple methods. The main method by which detainees obtained their preferred prescription drug was via a family member or friend without paying cash (43%). This was followed by those who reported buying it from a family member or friend (25%), buying it from a dealer (24%), using a script in their own name that was written by a doctor (21%), using a script written in someone else’s name (10%) and swapping other drugs (6%). Only one percent of detainees reported using a script written in their own name but not obtained from a doctor. A more complete analysis of the prescription drugs addendum can be found elsewhere (MacGregor et al. 2011).

Initiation and desistance addenda

Throughout 2009, two addenda were implemented examining the drug use initiation and desistence experience of DUMA detainees. The initiation addendum was implemented in quarter 2 and the desistance addendum in quarter 4 of 2009. Both were an initiative of the AIC and were developed to gain insight into the reasons that people first start, and why they might stop, using drugs.

The initiation addendum focused on alcohol, cannabis, illegal opiates (including heroin) and amphetamines. Analysis illustrated that the two most popular reasons that detainees first tried drugs (including alcohol) were peer-related—either because friends were using or because they had been offered it by a friend and wanted to see what it was like. By drug type, peer-related explanations were most common for cannabis (70%), followed by alcohol and amphetamines (67%, for each substance), and illegal opiates (55%). Not surprisingly, peers were the most common source from which DUMA detainees first obtained cannabis (69%), opiates (68%) and amphetamines (76%) and, while almost half of detainees also reported first getting alcohol from friends (46%), a sizable proportion reported relatives and other family members as an important source for their first use (30%).

The desistance addendum focused on identifying the extent to which drug-using detainees had considered or attempted to stop using drugs or alcohol, as well as the factors influencing their decision. Overall, 53 percent of detainees had reported at least one attempt to stop using or to reduce the amount of alcohol they consumed, while 66 percent reported the same for illegal drugs. Of those that had not yet tried to quit, a further eight percent reported wanting to give up alcohol, while 10 percent wanted to give up illegal drugs. The three main factors influencing a detainee’s decision to stop or reduce their use were pressure from their family/partner (52%), concerns for their responsibilities toward their children (18%) and concerns regarding the ill-effects of their drug use on their own health, including addiction (14%).

When contemplating giving up or reducing their use of alcohol or drugs, the majority of detainees (59%) reported that they would prefer to do it by themselves without professional help and treatment. A further 29 percent of detainees reported that they would prefer to reduce or stop their drug use by seeking professional help and treatment, while 12 percent reported they had no preference for either option. The most important factor (other than treatment itself) reported as aiding in the success of treatment was changing friendship groups (29%), followed by finding or having a job (23%), having increased support from family (15%) and changing residential location (14%). Further analysis of the initiation and desistance addenda can be found elsewhere (Ness & McGregor forthcoming; Sweeney & Payne forthcoming).

Mental health addendum

The mental health addendum was run at six data collection sites during quarter 1 of 2010. The addendum was developed to help to meet the recommendations of stakeholders regarding the need for more comprehensive data on the mental health of police detainees and the possible links between mental health, drug use and offending. The addendum used the Correctional Mental Health Screen (CMHS), which comprises separate questions for males and females and has been designed in accordance with, and validated against, DSM-IV diagnostic criteria (Ford et al. 2007).

Forty percent of adult police detainees reported having been previously diagnosed by a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or nurse with a mental health problem through the mental health addendum. Further, female detainees were more likely than male detainees to report having been previously diagnosed with a mental health problem (46% cf 38%). The results from the CMHS showed that, irrespective of prior diagnosis, 44 percent of male detainees and 61 percent of female detainees were likely to be experiencing symptoms associated with a mental health related disorder at the time of interview. A more complete analysis of the mental health addendum can be found elsewhere (Forsythe & Gaffney forthcoming).

Victimisation and fear of crime addendum

The victimisation and fear of crime addendum was implemented in quarter 2 of 2010. It provided a unique opportunity to investigate the victimisation experiences of a group of Australians that are not typically accessed in national household surveys. In addition, the addendum was designed to capture detailed information about the link between victimisation and offending—an area under-researched in the Australian context. The victimisation and fear of crime addendum focused on three crime types: physical assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft (Sweeney & Payne 2011).

Analysis of the data showed that one in three detainees (30%) believed that it was likely they would be physically assaulted sometime in the next 12 months, while half as many believed it was likely that their house would be burgled (15%) and eight percent anticipated that their motor vehicle would be stolen in the next 12 months. In terms of victimisation experiences, nearly one-third of detainees (30%) reported being a victim of at least one physical assault in the previous 12 months, while one in 10 (10%) reported being a victim of a burglary and four percent reported having their motor vehicle stolen. More than half of the detainees who reported having been burgled (58%) or having had their motor vehicle stolen (52%) reported their victimisation to the police, while only one in three detainees (33%) reported their experiences of assault to the police.

An important finding of the addendum was that one in 10 detainees (11%) reported that they felt a need to engage in an illegal activity as a means of compensating for the medical or other financial costs of their victimisation. The most common forms of illegal activity were shoplifting (8%) and drug dealing (5%) (see Sweeney & Payne 2011 for further analysis).

New drugs addendum

In the third quarter of 2010 the AIC developed and implemented an addendum focusing on new and re-emerging drugs such as mephedrone, GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate), Ketamine and Rohypnol. The purpose was to gather further information regarding, among other things, availability, price and frequency of use (Ness & Payne 2011).

The results showed that mephedrone was the least well known of the four drugs—27 percent of detainees had knowledge of the drug and less than one percent had used the drug in the previous 12 months. GHB was known to more than half of all detainees interviewed (53%) and had been used by 23 detainees (3%) in the past 12 months. More detainees had been offered GHB (8%) or knew of a dealer selling GHB (6%) than any of the other drug types. Ketamine was known to 43 percent of detainees and had been used by three percent. The level of Ketamine use was equal with that of GHB; however, knowledge of a current Ketamine dealer was lower (4%). Rohypnol was the most widely known of the four drug types (59%); however, use of the drug in the 12 months before interview was lower than for GHB or Ketamine (1%).

Diversion and drug preferences addendum

During the fourth quarter of 2010, the AIC developed the diversion and drug preferences addendum to provide information to assist in its enquiry into the policing implications of Indigenous drug and alcohol use in metropolitan locations. The addendum was implemented across all DUMA data collection sites. The section on diversion was developed to obtain information on detainee knowledge and access to diversion and other treatment options. Detainees from Queensland (67%) who had consumed alcohol and/or drugs in the 30 days before detention had the highest self-reported knowledge of diversion and treatment schemes in their jurisdiction, followed by detainees from Western Australia (66%), Victoria (64%), South Australia (56%), New South Wales (47%) and the Northern Territory (42%).

The section on drug preferences was developed to obtain information about detainee drug preferences and situational circumstances of use. The two main drugs of preference for detainees were alcohol (44%) and cannabis (30%), followed by heroin (6%), methamphetamine (5%) and amphetamines (3%). Seven percent of detainees stated they did not have a preferred drug. The main reasons for using their preferred drug were enjoyment (37%), coping (20%) and relaxation (18%). In the previous 30 days, the main location for using their preferred drug was at a residential location (87%), followed by a licensed premise (38%) and in the street or other public setting (33%).