Researchers have long known that managing an inmate population requires addressing problems other than violence. “The assessment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders is a critical task in managing criminal offenders,” said the authors of a new study focused on identifying the prevalence of these issues in inmates. “Offenders have prevalent rates of alcohol and drug problems that are much higher than those found in the general population. Their substance use is often tied to criminal offending and high risk behavior,” said the team, comprised of researchers at the University of South Florida, Texas A&M University, Simon Frasier University and Emory University. Because of this dynamic, the team believes that it is imperative to address these issues in order to see positive outcomes. They said, “Indeed, many consider addiction treatment an essential component of offender rehabilitation and community re-entry.”
The researchers evaluated 3,288 offenders from various institutions and administered the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI), a multi-scale report that identifies 344 specific items, and the Mental Health Screening Form-III, an 18 item tool created to evaluate the mental health status of someone with substance misuse issues. They found that “thirty-two percent of the sample had clinically significant alcohol problems, 67% had clinically significant drug problems, and 27% had elevations in both domains.” Additionally, the researchers discovered that 70% of those evaluated also had a substance use issue.
The researchers also discovered that mental health and co-occurring substance problems were persistent in the inmate population sampled and raised the risk for suicidal ideation and also violent behavior. They said, “Additionally, offenders with substance problems were more likely than others to have mental health problems associated with risk factors for suicide and aggression.” They believe their findings emphasize the importance of treating all of the issues present in this population. They added, “Increasingly, it is recognized that effective management and rehabilitation of offenders will require clinicians to address addictive problems.”
Ruiz, Mark A., Kevin S. Douglas, John F. Edens, Natalia L. Nikolova, and Scott O. Lilienfeld. “Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Problems in Offenders: Implications for Risk Assessment.” Psychological Assessment (July25, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024623
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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