Undertaken by School of Population Health’s Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC) in 2009, the study and recently released report examines the characteristics of those people who entered drug diversion, their health outcomes and drug-consumption patterns, and the outcomes of diversion.
A total of 235 Queensland participants (including 112 from Brisbane) were recruited for the study who had been apprehended by police with small quantities of illicit drugs, including 50g or less of cannabis.
Two interviews were conducted within a week of diversion intervention and again, six weeks later. Participants were interviewed on substance use, changes in risk-taking behaviour, spouse/partner conflict, and psychological distress.
Positive results were reported for all factors. A total of 80.3 percent of participants were using cannabis when recruited, which decreased to 66.7 percent at the follow-up interview.
A total of 12.8 percent of participants drove a motor vehicle after drinking five or more standard drinks when recruited, and this decreased to just five percent at follow-up.
Participants seemed less aggressive with an increase of 61.7 percent to 74.3 percent of participants who have “never had” conflict, according to the study. They were also significantly less distressed at the six-week follow-up, the report showed.
A total of 43 percent of participants reported a reduction in drug use following diversion, with 15 percent quitting altogether. Eleven percent reported diversion to be the reason for change, while 15 percent said the motivation to change was due to a fear of being caught.
Professor Jake Najman, lead investigator on the project and Director of the Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre, said he believed drug diversion was an effective way of addressing and reducing drug offences.
“Evidence has shown that individuals who receive criminal legal sanctions will continue making negative choices which impact themselves and their communities,” Professor Najman said.
“A diversion program offers these persons an opportunity to seek further help about their drug use. It gives them a chance to avoid a criminal record and to make positive change.
“It also reduces the burden on the legal justice system, the community, and for all individuals involved.”
The report is titled An Evaluation of Illicit Drug Court Diversion and Police Diversion Programs 2009 and the study was funded by Queensland Health.
Media: Professor Jake Najman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jeann Wong (email@example.com or 3365 5546).