Methadone maintenance and drug-related crime

J Subst Abuse. 1997;9:15-25. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(97)90003-1.


Using data from an evaluation of methadone maintenance treatment, this study investigated factors associated with continued involvement in crime during treatment, and in particular whether there appeared to be differences in effectiveness of treatment between different methadone clinics. The methodology was an observational study, in which 304 patients attending three low-intervention, private methadone clinics in Sydney were interviewed on three occasions over a twelve month period. Outcome measures were self-reported criminal activity and police department records of convictions. By self-report, crime dropped promptly and substantially on entry to treatment, to a level of acquisitive crime about one-eighth that reported during the last addiction period. Analysis of official records indicated that rates of acquisitive convictions were significantly lower in the in-treatment period compared to prior to entry to treatment, corroborating the changes suggested by self-report. Persisting involvement in crime in treatment was predicted by two factors: the cost of persisting use of illicit drugs, particularly cannabis, and ASPD symptom count. Treatment factors also were independently predictive of continued involvement in crime. By both self-report and official records, and adjusting for subject factors, treatment at one clinic was associated with greater involvement in crime. This clinic operated in a chaotic and poorly organized way. It is concluded that crime during methadone treatment is substantially lower than during street addiction, although the extent of reduction depends on the quality of treatment being delivered.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / complications
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications
  • Marijuana Abuse / rehabilitation
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Narcotics / therapeutic use*
  • New South Wales
  • Observation
  • Organizational Culture
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers / standards
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Narcotics
  • Methadone