School of Criminal Justice Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Justice and Human Services

First Advisor

Vincent B. Van Hasselt

Second Advisor

Gregory Vecchi

Third Advisor

John D. Campbell


The costs in terms of both monetary and human lives lost due to substance abuse in the United States is well documented and it is publicized that it is increasing. There has been a large amount of research completed that has examined methamphetamine users, heroin users, and the drug-crime nexus; however, there is a paucity of research that provides insight into these users’ arrest experiences. Using a phenomenological approach, this research examined methamphetamine and heroin users’ incidents of being arrested to gain a greater understanding of their lived experiences. The analysis was based on interviews that were conducted with five adults that had been regular users of methamphetamine and/or heroin and had been arrested for an offense that was either directly or indirectly a result of their drug use. The results revealed four general themes that indicated: (1) the users felt they were living self-destructive lifestyles at the time of their arrest; (2) they experienced shock and confusion at the time of the arrest and afterwards; (3) interactions with the police were commonplace and they each had mixed experiences dealing with the police; (4) each of the participants expressed directly or indirectly that they needed to be arrested, complete long term confinement, or the possibility of long-term confinement, after a charge to successfully achieve sobriety and positive changes in their lives. These findings were discussed, reviewing evaluations of drug court diversion, incarceration, or the concept of an individual hitting rock-bottom as a prerequisite for lasting positive change and rehabilitation. Future research comparing the success of these post-arrest outcomes is suggested.