Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Readiness to Change Drug Use and Help-Seeking Intentions of Police Detainees: Findings from the DUMA Program

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Readiness to Change Drug Use and Help-Seeking Intentions of Police Detainees: Findings from the DUMA Program

Article excerpt

The link between illicit drug use and crime is well documented in the criminological literature. While a causal relationship has not been established, research shows offending populations are considerably more likely to use illicit drugs compared with the general population, and a large proportion of offenders attribute their criminal activities to drug use (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013; Davis, Bahr & Ward 2012; Payne & Gaffney 2012). Data obtained through the Australian Institute of Criminology's (AlC's) Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) program indicate three in every four police detainees test positive to at least one type of drug and one in every four detainees believes drug use contributed to their detention (Coghlan et al. 2015).

In Australia, criminal justice interventions for drug-related crime include offender drug treatment, imprisonment and other disciplinary initiatives such as fines. The fundamental assumption underlying offender drug treatment is that it will reduce drug use and, in turn, recidivism. This theory is supported by evidence from numerous studies showing that offenders who -participate in treatment are less likely to use drugs and reoffend than comparable individuals who do not receive treatment (eg Bahr, Masters & Taylor 2012; Grella & Rodriguez 2011; Inciardi, Martin & Butzin 2004; Jason, Olson & Harvey 2015; National Health Service 2000; Payne 2005; Wundersitz 2007). In addition, evidence shows drug treatments realise considerable cost savings, in comparison with alternative forms of intervention such as imprisonment (Australian National Council on Drugs 2013; Zarkin et al. 2012; National Drug Intelligence Centre 2011). It is therefore important to identify those detainees most amenable to changing their drug use and the interventions they may be most receptive to.

Readiness to change drug use

In this paper, readiness to change (a term often used interchangeably with 'motivation to change') refers to 'the personal considerations, commitments, reasons, and intentions that move individuals to perform certain behaviours' (DiClemente, Schlundt & Gemmell 2004: 103-104). Readiness to change drug use is widely accepted as a key factor in drug treatment outcomes in both community (Klag, Creed & O'Collaghan 2010) and criminal justice (Gideon 2010) settings. Higher readiness-to-change levels have been associated with successful recovery from substance use and desistance from crime, whereas poor motivation has been identified as one of the most common reasons drug users do not complete treatment (Bilici et al. 2014; Evans, Li & Hser 2009; Rapp et al. 2007; Schroder et al. 2009). Gideon (2010) reported that among a sample of drug offenders the motivation to change, rather than the treatment program itself, was crucial to successful rehabilitation.

Readiness to change drug use has been widely explored, primarily through Prochaska and DiClemente's (1986) stages of change model. According to this model, the process of change is divided into four consecutive stages:

* precontemplation, where individuals do not perceive a problem;

* contemplation, where the problem is acknowledged and change is considered;

* action, where specific steps are taken to address the problem; and

* maintenance, where new behaviour is established and consolidated.

Individuals who relapse re-enter the cycle in the precontemplation or contemplation stage, and may continue to cycle through the stages of change multiple times before their substance-use problem is resolved. A key attraction of this model is that it enables service providers to tailor appropriate interventions to individuals at different stages of change (DiClemente, Schlundt & Gemmell 2004; Heather & Rollnick 1993).

Although the association between motivation and behavioural change is not straightforward, there is general consensus that identifying drug users' motivations to change is imperative to the design of intervention strategies (Peavy 2009; Bilici et al. …

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