NIJ's Drugs and Crime Research: Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Programs

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Overview of Drug Abuse Monitoring

Illegal drug use is more prevalent among criminal arrestees than the general population, and drug type varies by region and offender characteristics like age and race or ethnicity. Information collected via interview and bioassay (e.g., urinalysis) is useful in several ways, for example:

  • Data on illicit drug use, prescription drug diversion for nonmedical use, and drug market access inform law enforcement efforts.
  • Data on drug use patterns, contacts with the criminal justice system, and use of treatment inform courts, corrections and service providers.

The Community Epidemiology Work Group, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, uses community-level data like these to examine the nature and patterns of drug abuse, emerging trends, characteristics of vulnerable populations and social and health consequences.

Drug Use Indicator Data — Interviews and Bioassays

Most federally funded drug indicator programs collect information via interview only, but respondents may under-report information regarding illegal drug use. Although interviews are appropriate when collecting information on long-term drug use, drug markets, and contacts with criminal justice and health systems, information obtained from bioassays provides more objective and reliable indicators of all drugs used recently.

Chart showing positive tests for methamphetamines over time in five counties.

Positive tests for methamphetamines over time in five counties.
Full charts and text available from 2009 Annual Report: Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II (pdf, 182 pages).

Bioassay data can be used to more accurately examine changes in drug use over time and in different geographic areas. For example, bioassay data collected from arrestees can be used to study methamphetamine use over time across the United States. Data collected between 2000 and 2009 show that methamphetamine use has fluctuated but remained relatively high on the west coast (e.g., Sacramento and Portland) and relatively low on the east coast (e.g., Washington, D.C., and New York). [1]

Improving Data Programs — Planning Meetings

Drug abuse monitoring programs need more precise and timely reporting of information on emerging threats, as well as on changes in long-term patterns of drug use and markets. Could data programs be improved, such as by including a female offender population, automating data collection methods and updating bioassay protocols?

In 2010, NIJ and the Bureau of Justice Statistics held a series of meetings to identify ways to improve cost-efficiency through survey techniques that enhance data quality and information utility.

See papers and presentations from these meetings.

Descriptions of Data Programs

An overview of the data collection and reporting programs for information on arrestees includes the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) Program, and the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Programs (ADAM and ADAM II).

DUF — Drug Use Forecasting Program (1987–1997)

Beginning in 1987, the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) Program collected self-reported drug use information and urine specimens from juvenile and adult arrestees quarterly in 23 sites. The arrestee samples were not statistically representative, and no information was collected on alcohol use, drug access or drug markets.

Read the final report from the DUF Program: 1997 Drug Use Forecasting: Annual Report on Adult and Juvenile Arrestees.

ADAM — Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (1998-2003)

NIJ initiated ADAM in 1998 to replace DUF with an improved drug use prevalence estimation strategy through design of sampling methods, data-collection protocol and instrumentation.

  • ADAM sampled (with replacement) arrestees admitted to booking facilities during the past 24 hours, in proportion to those booked during the data collection shift and the stock of arrestees who were booked prior. Interviewers extracted basic arrest data from booking information and entered it onto a facesheet, which provided sufficient identifying information that the arrestee could be matched to census data representing all bookings into the jail. Census booking data for the sample frame of arrestees during the ADAM data-collection period were provided by local jurisdictions and used to calculate post-stratification sample weights.
  • The questionnaire incorporated a calendar with contextualizing questions that helped arrestees remember with greater accuracy the frequency of events such as how often they used alcohol, marijuana, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine (primary drugs) and when. Information was collected in reference to a 12-month calendar and lifetime use.
  • For each of the primary drugs used, drug market information was collected for cash and noncash transactions. Details included number and unit type (e.g., 10 bags), location (e.g., public or private setting), and whether the drug source was new or regular.
  • Urinalyses, used to estimate drug use prevalence and to provide confirmation of truthful reporting, accounted for 10 different illegal drugs. Arrestees were asked to self-report use of primary and secondary drugs (e.g., methadone and other prescription drugs) in the past three days, corresponding to the drug test detection window.

These data were collected in about 35 sites through 2003. All sites collected data quarterly from adult male arrestees; some also collected data from adult female arrestees and juveniles. Local coordinating committees helped develop special addenda to collect information of local importance, such as methamphetamine, gangs, domestic violence and other topics.

An international component (I-ADAM) included partners in eight countries: Australia, Chile, England, Malaysia, Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa and Taiwan.

Read the final report from the ADAM Program: Drug and Alcohol Use and Related Matters Among Arrestees, 2003 (pdf, 33 pages).

ADAM II — Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (2007-2013)

In 2007, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) initiated ADAM II. Ten of the original ADAM sites were selected for geographic diversity to address questions regarding methamphetamine trends beyond the southwest, and instrumentation was modified to add items specific to methamphetamine. Data are collected from adult male arrestees during a two-week period between April and September; prevalence estimates are annualized to analyze trends. ADAM II developed propensity scores to weight the data, replacing the post-stratification technique. Otherwise, the data-collection protocol is similar to ADAM.

Read the most recent report from the ADAM II Program: ADAM II 2013 Annual Report.

Search for other ADAM II reports at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

Data From Drug Abuse Monitoring Programs

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Data are available at the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data for drug abuse monitoring programs:


[1] These data are taken from 2009 Annual Report: Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II, June 2010, Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Date Modified: June 18, 2014