Criminal History, Substance Use, Health Problems, and Health Services Utilization Among Incarcerated Substance Abusers

Allison Mateyoke, University of Kentucky
Matthew L. Hiller, University of Kentucky
Michele Staton, University of Kentucky
Carl G. Leukefeld, University of Kentucky

Recent research shows that drug-involved offenders engage in many health-risky behaviors (Ilammett, Harmon, & Maruschak, 1999), but relatively little is known about the impact of criminal history on the health status of these individuals. As part of the NIDA-funded Health Services Use by Chronic Rural Drug Abusers project, 661 male prisoners completed a face-to-face baseline interview with research staff before their parole. Criminal history information also was abstracted from state official records databases. Findings showed that having a more serious criminal history was associated with higher rates of physical and mental health problems, including problems with the liver, circulatory system, and stomach. Dental problems and sexually transmitted diseases also were associated significantly with criminal history. Opitoid and amphetamine use was related positively to criminal history, and those with extensive criminal histories showed the highest rates of cocaine use prior to incarceration. In terms of health services utilization, offenders with more serious criminal histories were more likely to have received medical care in a hospital emergency room. Criminal history also was related to receiving treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse. Implications of study findings for "graying" offender populations and public policy will be discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006