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Substance use amongst mentally disordered offenders in medium security: prevalence and relationship to offending behaviour

Calem De Burca (Student, based at Trevor Gibbens Medium Secure Unit, Kent Forensic Psychiatry Service, Maidstone, UK and School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Helen Louise Miles (Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, based at Trevor Gibbens Medium Secure Unit, Kent Forensic Psychiatry Service, Maidstone, UK and Department of Forensic Mental Health Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London, London, UK)
Eduardo Antonio Vasquez (Lecturer in Forensic Psychology, based at the School of Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 18 November 2013

257

Abstract

Purpose

Substance use contributes to the development of criminogenic behaviour and mental health problems. However, the extent and severity of substance use and the relationship to offending in mentally disordered offenders (MDOs) admitted to regional medium secure units has received relatively limited research attention.

Design/methodology/approach

Case note reviews (n=57) and semi-structured interviews (n=21) of past substance use levels, substance use problems and forensic history were conducted at a medium secure unit in South East England.

Findings

Results highlighted the high prevalence of substance use among MDOs, especially when determined by self-report. At least one-third (case note review) or almost half (self-report) used alcohol at the time of their index offence, although many failed to recognise use as problematic. Significant correlations were found between heavy past use of alcohol and use of alcohol at time of offending. Past heavy use of alcohol significantly predicted whether or not the individual was convicted of a violent offence.

Research limitations/implications

The small sample from one area limits the generalisability of findings as substance use demographics vary. Methodological shortcomings were noted when comparing data from self-report and case note information. Retrospective recall bias may influence past perceptions of substance use.

Practical implications

These preliminary findings indicate the importance of assessing substance use in MDOs and considering its relationship to offending behaviour in treatment and risk management.

Originality/value

Although anecdotally substance use is known to be high and likely to be related to offending behaviour amongst MDOs, there is little previous research highlighting this.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank staff and service users in Kent Forensic Psychiatry Service that made this study possible. This study received no external sources of funding.

Citation

De Burca, C., Louise Miles, H. and Antonio Vasquez, E. (2013), "Substance use amongst mentally disordered offenders in medium security: prevalence and relationship to offending behaviour", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 259-268. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFP-08-2012-0010

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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