Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM)

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The Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) system evolved from the Drug Use Forecasting program (DUF). The National Institute of Justice developed this monitoring system in 1987 (Wish and Gropper, 1990). DUF was developed on the premise that a large fraction of arrestees not arrested for drug crimes (such as the possession or sale of drugs) were drug users, and that their drug use was linked to their criminality. Although many indicators were available to assess the level and nature of the nation's drug-abuse problem, little reliable data was available for arrestees, a particularly high-risk group in this regard. By 1989 the DUF program included twenty-four cities.

DUF protocol called for the collection of interview and urinalysis data from arrestees. In each city, a goal of interviewing 225 adult male and 100 adult female arrestees each quarter was set. Initially, no more than 20 percent of those included in the sample could be charged with a drug crime. Male arrestees were eligible to participate if they had been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, but all female arrestees were eligible for participation. Urinalysis was conducted to test for the presence of a number of drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates, PCP, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and designer drugs. Interviews were confidential and voluntary, and in most sites high rates of compliance from arrestees were obtained. A national laboratory analyzed all urine samples, and federal drug-testing standards for false positives and drug confirmation were applied to the testing procedure.

The DUF program had three specific goals: (1) to forecast drug epidemics, (2) to understand the nature of arrestee drug use, and (3) to provide drug treatment services for arrestees. Arrestees tested positive for drugs at very high levels: as many as 80 percent in some cities tested positive for at least one illegal drug. The drug of choice in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s was cocaine, followed by marijuana and opiates. There was a notable increase in the use of marijuana in the mid-1990s and by the late 1990s some cities found that methamphetamines were the drug of choice among arrestees. These cities were located in the western and southwestern United States. In general, women were more likely to test positive than men, and arrestees in their late twenties were the age group most likely to test positive. In addition, women charged with the crime of prostitution were the group most likely to test positive for drugs. It was no surprise that arrestees charged with drug crimes tested positive for illegal drugs at higher levels than those charged with other offenses. However, individuals arrested for property crimes such as burglary tested positive for drugs at levels comparable to those arrested for drug crimes. Individuals charged with violent crimes tested positive at the lowest levels, well below the average for the entire sample. There was considerable evidence of behaviors that placed arrestees at risk for HIV, including multiple sex partners, unprotected sex, and sharing of needles.

In 1997, the National Institute of Justice revamped and renamed DUF (NIJ, 1998) as Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM). This change came in response to criticism about the sampling procedures used in DUF. In addition to a sampling plan that would yield findings which could be applied to the arrestee population in a given city, ADAM added twenty-six new cities to their programs, with a target goal of seventy-five.


National Institute of Justice (1998). Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring: 1997 Annual report on adult and juvenile arrestees. Washington, D.C.

Wish, E. and Gropper, B. (1990). Drug testing by the criminal justice system: Methods, research and applications. In M. Tonry and J. Wilson (Eds.) Drugs and Crime. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 321-392.

Scott H. Decker

Eric D. Wish