Methadone maintenance and crime

Barry J Spunt, Fordham University


This is a study of the criminal activity of heroin addicts who are enrolled in methadone treatment programs. The purpose of this research was to determine the factors that explain addict during-treatment crime. A review of relevant literature indicates that it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about addict crime during treatment or the effect of treatment on crime. I argue that a key to understanding this issue lies in the addict self-concept. I focus on methadone clients' views of themselves as heroin addicts and as being connected to the social world of addiction. Nine hypotheses deriving from the theoretical and drug treatment literature are tested. Data derived from a federally funded study (the Tri-State Ethnographic Project) which examined four methadone treatment programs in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut during 1981-2. About half of the sample was involved in crime, mostly low risk, small profit crime. Illicit drug use was widespread. Loitering and diversion were significant problems. Having a street-oriented identity was associated with involvement in crime and use of cocaine. There was some support for the idea that crime and drug use during treatment, but not identity status, are related to the nature of subject reference others. A number of other variables were found to be associated with crime and drug use during treatment. The implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Spunt, Barry J, "Methadone maintenance and crime" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9025025.