Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

A Comparison of Drug Use between Prostitutes and Other Female Arrestees (1)

Academic journal article Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education

A Comparison of Drug Use between Prostitutes and Other Female Arrestees (1)

Article excerpt


Several previous studies have examined the nexus between drug use and prostitution. To date, however, only one study has compared drug use among female arrestees charged with prostitution offenses to female arrestees charged with non-prostitution offenses. Moreover, no studies have undertaken such comparison with an objective measure of recent drug use. In the current study, self-report drug use data and urine specimens were collected from 3,587 female arrestees surveyed through Houston's Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program between 1990 and 1998. Chi-square statistics indicated that females arrested for prostitution offenses were significantly more likely to test positive for cocaine (73% v. 38%,p<0.001), and to self-report crack (41% v. 15%,p<0.001) and powder cocaine (10% v. 4%,p<0.001) use within the past three days, than the non-prostitutes. Logistic regression indicated that the likelihood of being detected cocaine-positive was 389% higher for a female arrestee who injected cocaine than for a female arrestee who never injected cocaine, holding all other variables constant. If a female arrestee we arrested for a prostitution offense, that likelihood of being detected cocaine-positive was 275% higher that for a female arrestee not arrested for a prostitution offense, holding all other variables constant. Implications for drug treatment and public health systems are assessed in light of these findings.


The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program (National Institute of Justice (NIJ), 2000) has reported that over 50% of individuals entering the criminal justice system test positive for at least one illicit drug. This drug/crime nexus has considerable implications for the criminal justice, drug treatment, and public health systems. Not only are drug-positive arrestees often in need of immediate substance abuse treatment, but their inevitable return to the community may pose great public health concerns. Such negative consequences of drug use become even more amplified among female arrestee populations. As the gender more inclined to prostitution, females are particularly vulnerable to drug use and spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Operating under the assumption that a large portion of prostitutes will become drug users at some point in their lives (Lemert, 1981; Weisberg, 1985), the need to disentangle the relationship between prostitution and drug use seems critical. Indeed, a number of studies have explored drug use among females charged with prostitution offenses during the past three decades (Datesman and Inciardi, 1979; File, McCahill,,1974; Forney, Inciardi, Lockwood, 1992; Goldstein, 1979; Graham and Wish, 1994; Inciardi, Lockwood, Pottieger et al., 1991, 1993; James, 1976; James, Gosho, Wohl et al., 1979; Kuhns, Heide, Silverman et al., 1992; Maxwell and Maxwell, 2000).

James et al. (1979) examined the relationship between female addicts and addiction-related crimes (addict support systems) and the relationship between non-addict female offenders and drug and property violations (non-addict support systems). The analysis was based on data collected from a two-year study of four groups of women (n=268)-addicts, addict-prostitutes, prostitutes, and female offenders. The authors reported that addict-prostitutes and prostitutes had the greatest number of arrests, with 29% of the addict-prostitutes and 33% of the prostitutes having reported more than six arrest (James et al. 1979). The most frequent charge for these two groups was prostitution. When drugs were involved in the arrest, opiates were most common for addict (30.8%) and addict-prostitutes (50.9%).

Between November 1989 and January 1990, Kuhns et al. (1992) compared drug use among prostitutes to other female arrestees with 100 respondents from the Hillsborough County Work Release Center (HCWRC). The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Initial Assessment Questionnaire was utilized, which solicited self-reported information on criminal history and alcohol and other drug (AOD) using behaviors. …

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