Opioid Treatment Programs and Crime



In a recent study, violent crime rates were found to be lower in areas surrounding methadone clinics than around other neighborhood businesses. [1]

This study, published in Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in January, 2016, followed violent crime statistics around fifty-three publically funded outpatient drug addiction treatment centers, including methadone clinics, in Baltimore, Maryland. The study was done by a research team out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and headed by Dr. Furr-Holden.

Crime rates around methadone clinics were compared to crime rates around liquor stores, convenience stores, and other “corner stores” defined as mom-and-pop small businesses. The researchers didn’t count actual robberies of the liquor, convenience, and corner stores, since these are robbed much more often than addiction treatment centers, to avoid a bias in favor of the addiction treatment programs.

Neighborhoods around addiction treatment programs still had significantly fewer violent crimes than neighborhoods around retail stores, even controlling for the socioeconomic status of each area. The treatment centers had 25% less crime around their neighborhoods than did retail stores

This data dovetails with previous data from a similar Baltimore study. [2]

In 2012, Dr. Susan Boyd, from the University Maryland School of Medicine, released a study that mapped violent crimes in Baltimore by distance from the city’s fifteen methadone treatment programs. These programs were located in various types of communities; some were in the inner city, some in working-class neighborhoods, and others in middle-class neighborhoods. Her study found that violent crimes were no more likely to occur within 25 meters of the methadone facility than they were 100 meters away.

Again, when this researcher looked at retail stores like convenience stores, they found significantly more violent crimes committed within 25 meters of the stores, compared to 100 meters away from the stores.

The establishment of new methadone clinics, now better termed “opioid treatment programs” since they  also prescribe buprenorphine, is often opposed by local citizens. Usually these citizens cite increased crime as the reason for their opposition. These studies show this reason is not valid, and that if citizens wanted to base their protestations on fact instead of bias, they should object to the establishment of new liquor stores and convenience stores, shown by both studies to be much more associated with violent crime.

  1. “Not in My Back Yard: A Comparative Analysis of Crime Around Publicly Funded Drug Treatment Centers, Liquor Stores, Convenience Stores, and Corner Stores in One Mid-Atlantic City” was written by C. Debra M. Furr-Holden; Adam J. Milam; Elizabeth Nesoff; Renee Johnson; David . Fakunle; Jacky M. Jennings; and Roland J. Thorpe.
  2. Boyd, S.J., et al. Use of a “microecological technique” to study crime incidents around methadone maintenance treatment centers. Addiction 107(9):1632–1638, 2012.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by tylogirl27aax on February 8, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Interesting, but sadly the study doesn’t tell us much because it’s input is limited to a single city, whose zoning ordinances, or other factors, may very well have resulted in the placement of OTPs in low-crime areas. Of course, small correlative studies are often used against us, so we might as well claim a win when we can.


  2. Posted by Thomas Salmon on February 8, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    This may be a case of “the cart before the horse”. Due to the difficulty in siting methadone clinics, they need up being, ironically, in better areas than they might be if they were snuck into a neighborhood that wouldn’t put up a fight.


  3. Posted by Matt V on February 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Oh please previous posters…studies have been conducted in france, germany and Great Britian that clearly show a correlation of lower crime around treatment centers and one study showed crime before the installation of a clinic and then afterwords.
    Treatment provides hope, hope gives the patients peace, and peace allows for recovery. Not to say recovery is easy, in my humble opinion recovery is when the real challenges begin.
    So glad to know there are healthcare proffesionals such as yourself Dr Burson who are truly interested and empathetic to their work. If only we could have more of you in the field..


    • I appreciate the data. There are many older studies that show addiction treatment reduces crime, and now we have these newer ones showing the same thing. Thank you.


  4. Urban residents are right to be concerned about safety, property values, noise and traffic, and unpleasant behavior on the street, all of which reduce the quality of their lives


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