Understanding substance use trajectories among probationers and the impact on re-arrest



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More than 20 million individuals have a substance use disorder in the United States. Individuals cycling in and out of the criminal justice system disproportionately experience substance use disorders that result in a multitude of negative outcomes. Prior research demonstrates that substance users are heterogeneous in their patterns of use, and individual characteristics such as age, type of drug use, prior treatment experiences, and criminal history predict patterns of use. While there is a growing body of research examining substance use patterns and trajectories, there are still large gaps in our knowledge, particularly among probationers. The current study examines the substance use patterns among individuals while on community supervision, with attention to the factors that predict membership into those substance use groups and how those substance use groups may predict re-arrest. Six groups of substance users emerged from the data: abstainers, late-increasing, low-moderate, increasing, decreasing, and high user groups. The number of probation contacts, formal treatment attendance, number of arrests, and housing in a non-controlled environment were the time-varying predictors related to group membership, while risk-taking, family and peer drug use, initiating substance use under the age of 16, and severity of drug disorder were time-stable risk factors for group membership. Despite the distinct substance use patterns that emerged, the pattern of substance use did not predict later re-arrest among this group of individuals on community supervision.