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The effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment in controlling crime.



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Media release: The Effectiveness of Methadone Maintenance Treatment in Controlling Crime

Release date: Sunday 18 April 2004, 6.00PM

Groundbreaking research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) has shown that dependent heroin users commit significantly less crime while in methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) than when they are out of it.

The NSW Government commissioned the research after accepting the NSW Drug Summit recommendation to significantly expand the State’s methadone program. Since the NSW Drug Summit, the number of people in methadone maintenance treatment has risen from 12,600 to approximately 14,000.

To conduct the research, BOCSAR and NDARC identified a group of 11,126 heroin users who had been on the NSW public methadone one or more times between 1st of January 1999 and the 31st of December 2000. The court records of these people were then accessed and used to determine whether they were offending more when in methadone treatment than when they were out of it.

After adjusting for time spent in custody, officially recorded offending rates were found to be significantly lower for most people during periods when they were in methadone treatment than during periods when they were out of it. A reduction in officially recorded offending rates was found for all age groups and for both men and women but the reduction was much more substantial for young women.

The key results were:

● For every 100 males under the age of 30 on the methadone program for one year, there is a

reduction of 10 charges of any type and 8 theft charges ● For any 100 males aged 30 and over on the methadone program for one year, there is a

reduction of 20 charges of any type and 11 theft charges; ● For every 100 females under the age of 30 on the methadone program for one year, there is

a reduction of 44 charges of any type and 23 theft charges ● For every 100 females aged 30 and over on the methadone program for one year, there is a

reduction of 27 charges of any type and 20 theft charges.

Although these results are very encouraging, they actually understate the true reduction in crime associated with methadone maintenance treatment. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, not all crime is reported to police. Secondly, only a fraction of the crime that is reported to the police results in someone being charged with an offence.

It is possible to estimate the true reduction in crime for the offences of robbery, break and enter, and motor vehicle theft, using information on the proportion of crimes reported to and cleared up by

police. According to the study authors, for every 100 persons in methadone for one year, NSW gets 12 fewer robberies, 57 fewer break and enters and 56 fewer motor vehicle thefts.

Commenting on the findings of the study, the Director of BOCSAR, Dr Don Weatherburn, said that they provide the first conclusive evidence in Australia, outside an experimental setting, that methadone maintenance treatment is an effective crime control tool.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 0419-494-408

most recently updated 19 April 2004