Category: Criminal Justice / Forensics

Symposium

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Criminal Behavior, Legal Problems, and Incarceration Among U.S. Adults

Saturday, November 18
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Cobalt 502, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: Criminal Justice | Substance Abuse | Diagnosis
Presentation Type: Symposium

A high proportion of people in the U.S. criminal justice system have mental health (MH) and substance use (SU) disorders, suggesting a link between these disorders and crime. However, most studies examining MH/SU disorders and crime are among justice-involved populations rather than the general public, limiting our understanding of the degree to which these disorders increase risk for crime outcomes. Further, there is little research examining the role of specific MH and co-occurring disorders with crime outcomes among the general public.


Using data from the National Epidemiological Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (n = 36,309), this study examined the association between MH disorders, SU disorders, and co-occurring disorders with self-reported criminal activity without arrest, legal problems, and incarceration among U.S. adults. The presence of each disorder was compared to a condition of no disorders, and a four-level variable capturing no disorders, SU only, MH only, or both MH and SU disorders was analyzed as a predictor of crime outcomes.


Lifetime presence of a MH or SU disorder (respectively) was associated with increased risk for self-reported criminal activity without arrest (OR = 5.45; 7.20), legal problems (OR = 3.96; 5.08), and incarceration (OR = 4.15; 6.02). Among specific MH disorders, a bipolar I diagnosis was associated with the greatest risk of self-reported criminal activity without arrest (OR = 12.60) and incarceration (OR = 8.67), and a PTSD diagnosis was associated with the greatest risk of legal problems (OR = 6.80). SU disorders increased risk for all crime outcomes, the strongest effect being that drug use disorders were associated with over 17 times the odds of self-reported criminal activity without arrest. The presence of co-occurring MH and SU disorders substantially increased risk of self-reported criminal activity without arrest (OR = 10.38), legal problems (OR = 6.29), and incarceration (OR = 7.46). Among the general public, the presence of MH and SU disorders, especially co-occurring disorders, increases risk for crime outcomes. People with Bipolar I, PTSD, and substance use disorders are most at risk.

Kelly E. Moore

Postdoctoral Fellow
Yale University School of Medicine

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Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Criminal Behavior, Legal Problems, and Incarceration Among U.S. Adults



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