Trends and correlates of substance use disorders among probationers and parolees in the United States 2002–2014

Noelle E. Fearn, Michael G. Vaughn, Erik J. Nelson, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Matt DeLisi, Zhengmin Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Background Substance use and crime/recidivism are irrevocably linked. We explore the nuances of this association by highlighting the prevalence, trends, and correlates of substance use dsorders in a large group of probationers/parolees. Methods We examined SUDs among probationers and parolees in the United States using data from the National Study on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Logistic regression models were computed to examine eight distinct outcomes: alcohol abuse, illicit drug abuse, marijuana/hashish abuse, comorbid alcohol and illicit drug abuse, alcohol dependence, illicit drug dependence, marijuana/hashish dependence, and comorbid alcohol and illicit drug dependence. Results Probationers/parolees have high prevalence rates across all SUDs categories and these trends have been relatively constant. Prevalence rates for alcohol abuse and dependence are two to six times higher than for marijuana and other illicit drug abuse and dependence. Key correlates of substance abuse for probationers/parolees include: age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, income, risk propensity, crime/violence measures, and comorbid substance abuse. Similar correlates were found for substance dependence, in addition to employment and mental health treatment. Conclusions This study indicates that SUDs are higher among probationer/parolees as compared to their non-supervised counterparts − between four and nine times higher − and these levels have changed little in recent years. Effectively responding to SUDs in this population may enhance adherence to supervision requirements, prevent recidivism, and improve public safety. We may be better served using limited funds for further development of evidence-based policies and programs, such as drug courts, which demonstrate reductions in both drug use and recidivism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-139
Number of pages12
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Apr 25 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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