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Amphetamine use and violence

Date: 26 Feb 2009

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Recent research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has cast doubt on the association between amphetamine use and violence.

The Bureau identified all 99,262 offenders aged fifteen years or older who were convicted of at least one offence in a NSW adult or juvenile court in 2005 and followed them up for 18 months.

About 1.7 per cent (1,660 offenders) of the total sample had been charged with an amphetamine-related offence but no other offence in the preceding five years. A further 1.4 per cent (1,389 offenders) had been charged with an amphetamine-related offence as well as some other kind of offence.

After adjusting for a number of risk factors for re-offending (e.g. age, sex, Indigenous status), the Bureau found that offenders with a prior conviction for an amphetamine offence were no more likely than those with no prior drug offences to be subsequently charged with a violent offence.

Instead, those with a prior non-amphetamine drug charge were significantly more likely than those with no prior drug charges to be subsequently charged with a violent offence.

The strongest predictor of future violent offending, however, was having six or more prior non-violent/non-drug charges.

The odds of an offender with six or more prior non-violent/non-drug charges being later charged with a violent offence were 4.5 times higher than those with no prior non-violent/non-drug charges.

Commenting on the findings the Director of the Bureau Dr Don Weatherburn cautioned that they should not be regarded as definitive.

"Our measure of amphetamine use tells us nothing about the frequency of such use or the average quantities being consumed by an amphetamine user. Further research is needed looking at the relationship between these factors and violence before we have a clear picture of how amphetamine use affects the risk of involvement in violence".

Further Enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190, 0419-494-408.