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The relationship between maintenance on prolonged methadone and decrease in crime : the first phase of a Study of Drug Addicts at the Narcotic Addiction Foundation of British Columbia Boyd, Lemuel Waltar


Since 1963, the Narcotic Addiction Foundation of British Columbia has been administering Methadone, a synthetic drug, on a prolonged basis to a selected group of heroin addicts. For the purposes here, those addicts receiving Methadone on a continuous day to day basis for an indefinite period of time will be called prolongeds. Those addicts receiving Methadone in decreasing dosage over a twelve day withdrawal period will be referred to as regulars. Ingeborg Paulus, Research Associate at the Foundation, assessed the effectiveness of Methadone by comparing a group of addicts given the drug on a prolonged basis to a group of addicts undergoing regular twelve day withdrawal. The findings of her study showed that prolongeds committed fewer crimes than the regulars. The addicts in the prolonged group were significantly older than those in the regular group. Paulus found that age was the most important factor in the addicts' decreased use of narcotics. This tendency to use less drugs as the addict becomes older is known as the "maturing-out" process. Therefore, a decrease in crime by the prolonged group may not be solely attributable to Methadone, but to the age of the addict. The purpose of the present study is to test the causal relationship between the prolonged administration of Methadone to heroin addicts and their criminal behaviour. To carry out this study, the following two hypotheses were developed: (1) Heroin addicts commit fewer crimes when maintained on prolonged Methadone, and (2) Heroin addicts maintained on prolonged Methadone commit fewer crimes than heroin addicts who are given regular withdrawal. The research method used involved a retrospective, follow-up study utilizing all of the addicts in Paulus' sample who were between the ages of twenty-five and forty years. This was done in an effort to make the two groups more comparable in their age distribution. To test hypothesis one, a 'before and after' design was proposed that will allow investigation of the addict's criminal activity prior to and after his exposure to prolonged Methadone. To test the second hypothesis, the criminal behaviour of the prolongeds will be compared to the criminal behaviour of the regulars. Additional analysis are suggested to assist in assessing the comparability of the two groups. After considering the numerous and unexpected problems a researcher faces, it is concluded that, while it may be feasible to conduct this study using the sample available, one cannot depend on the reliability or validity of the findings to test the hypotheses conclusively.

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