What's drugs got to do with it? Examining the relationship between drug onset and duration with criminal outcomes in an African American cohort

Kerry M. Green, Elaine E. Doherty, Margaret E. Ensminger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The association of drug use onset and duration with criminal careers has rarely been studied over the life course among African Americans, who are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Methods: This study uses data from a community cohort of urban African Americans, first assessed at age 6 (n = 1242) and followed into midlife. Data come from both self-reports (n = 1053 in adulthood) and official crime records (n = 1217). Regression analyses among those who used marijuana, cocaine, and/or heroin and had complete arrest data (n = 614) assess the association between adolescent vs. adult initiation, short vs. long duration of use, and their interaction with the outcomes of arrest, incarceration, and criminal career length, as well as meeting criteria for a drug use disorder. Results: Findings show that onset and duration are highly related, but when independent effects of duration and onset are assessed, only duration is a statistically significant predictor of all four crime outcomes, as well as a predictor of meeting criteria for a drug use disorder in adjusted regression models. Associations of duration with arrests held for all crime types (i.e., drug, property, violence). Adolescent vs. adult drug onset only predicted meeting lifetime criteria for a drug use disorder. The interaction of onset and duration was not statistically significant in any models. No appreciable differences were observed in gender specific models. Discussion: Findings suggest that shortening drug use duration may have a greater impact on reducing the association of drug use with crime for African Americans than delaying onset.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106539
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume110
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Criminal justice system involvement
  • Drug use initiation
  • Drug use trajectory
  • Longitudinal data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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