Drug arrests and injection drug deterrence

Am J Public Health. 2011 Feb;101(2):344-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.191759. Epub 2010 Dec 16.


Objectives: We tested the hypothesis that higher rates of previous hard drug-related arrests predict lower rates of injection drug use.

Methods: We analyzed drug-related arrest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program for 93 large US metropolitan statistical areas in 1992 to 2002 to predict previously published annual estimates of the number of injection drug users (IDUs) per 10,000 population.

Results: In linear mixed-effects regression, hard drug-related arrest rates were positively associated (parameter = +1.59; SE = 0.57) with the population rate of IDUs in 1992 and were not associated with change in the IDU rate over time (parameter = -0.15; SE = 0.39).

Conclusions: Deterrence-based approaches to reducing drug use seem not to reduce IDU prevalence. Alternative approaches such as harm reduction, which prevents HIV transmission and increases referrals to treatment, may be a better foundation for policy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • United States
  • Young Adult