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Karen McElrath


BSc, MSc, PhD
Reader in Criminology
Room 1.04, 1 College Park East
Ext: 3551


Ph.D., Criminology, 1989, Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida)
M.S., Justice Administration, 1984, University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky)
B. S., Police Administration, 1983, University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky)

Prior Academic Appointments

Department of Sociology, University of Miami (Florida)
August 1991 - May 1996 (tenure awarded)

Department of Sociology, Duquesne University (Pennsylvania)
August 1989 - July 1991


I convene the following modules:

  • Crime and Society (core, second year)
  • Sociology of Drugs (option, final year)

Current research interests

  1. Heroin use and injecting practice
  2. Methadone maintenance as social control
  3. New synthetic stimulants (e.g mephedrone, MDPV)


Coomber, R., McElrath, K., Measham, F. and Moore, K. (2013). Key Concepts in Drug Use and Misuse. London: Sage, forthcoming.

McElrath, K. and Harris, J. (2012).  Peer injecting: Implications for injecting order and blood-borne viruses among men and women who inject heroin.  Journal of Substance Use, forthcoming.    

Van Hout, M. C. and McElrath, K. (2012).  Service user involvement in drug treatment programmes: Barriers to implementation and potential benefits for client recovery.  Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, forthcoming.

O’Neill, C. and McElrath, K. (2012).  Simultaneous use of mephedrone and alcohol: A qualitative study of users’ experiences.  Addiction Research and Therapy, S9 (open access, special issue – synthetic cathinones).

Harris, J. and McElrath, K. (2012). Methadone as social control: Institutionalized stigma and the prospect of recovery. Qualitative Health Research 22, 810-824.

McElrath, K. and Van Hout, M. C. (2011). A preference for mephedrone: Drug markets, drugs of choice, and the emerging "legal high" scene. Journal of Drug Issues, , 41, 487-508.

McElrath, K. and O’Neill, C. (2011). Experiences with mephedrone pre- and post-legislative controls: Perceptions of safety and sources of supply. International Journal of Drug Policy, 22, 120-127. article/S0955-3959(10)00158-1/abstract

Inciardi, J. A. and McElrath, K., editors (2010). The American Drug Scene, 6th edition. New York: Oxford University Press.. (First edition published in 1991).

McElrath, K. (2009). Nightlife and crime in Northern Ireland. In Nightlife and Crime: International Perspectives, P. Hadfield (editor). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McElrath, K. and Connolly, D. (2006). Nalbuphine (Nubain): Non-prescribed use, injecting, and risk behaviors for blood-borne viruses. Contemporary Drug Problems, 33, 321-340.

McElrath, K. (2006). Booting and flushing: Needle rituals and risk for bloodborne viruses. Journal of Substance Use 11, 177-189.

McElrath, K. (2005). Ecstasy users’ perceptions about sexuality and sexual risk. Substance Use and Misuse, 40, 1461-1477.

McElrath, K. (2004). Drug use and drug markets in the context of political conflict: The case of Northern Ireland. Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 577-590.

McEvoy, K. Shirlow, P. and McElrath, K. (2004). Resistance, transition and exclusion: Politically motivated ex-prisoners and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland. Terrorism and Political Violence, 16, 646-570.

McElrath, K. and McEvoy, K. (2002). Negative experiences on Ecstasy: The role of drug, set and setting. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 34, 199-208. (Reprinted in Cocktails and Dreams: Perspectives on Drug and Alcohol Use (2005), W. R. Palacios, editor, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall).

McElrath, K. (2002). Drug transactions involving Ecstasy: Users' perceptions of drug deals and the roles involved in drug acquisition. In In their Own Words, 3rd edition. Paul Cromwell (editor). Los Angeles: Roxbury.

McElrath, K., editor (2002). HIV/AIDS: A World View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

McElrath, K. (2002). HIV and AIDS in Ireland. In HIV/AIDS: A World View. Karen McElrath (editor). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

McElrath, K. (2001). Risk behaviors among injecting drug users in Northern Ireland. Substance Use and Misuse, 36, 2137-2157.

McElrath, K. and McEvoy, K. (2001). Heroin as evil: Ecstasy users’ perceptions about heroin. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 8,177-189.

McElrath, K. and McEvoy, K. (2001). Fact, fiction and function: Mythmaking and the social construction of Ecstasy use. Substance Use and Misuse, 36,1-22.

Higgins, K. and McElrath, K. (2000). The trouble with peace: The cease-fires and their impact on drug use among youth in Northern Ireland. Youth and Society, 32, 29-59.

McElrath, K. (2000). Unsafe Haven: The United States, the IRA and Political Prisoners. London: Pluto.

McElrath, K. (2000). Vandalism and violence against property. In Encyclopedia of Violence in the United States. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.

McEvoy, K. McElrath, K., and Higgins, K. (1998). Does Ulster still say no? Drugs, politics, and propaganda in Northern Ireland. Journal of Drug Issues, 28, 127-154.

McElrath, K. (1998). Alcoholics Anonymous. In The American Drug Scene, 2nd edition. James Inciardi and Karen McElrath (editors). Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Comerford, M., Chitwood, D. D., McElrath, K., and Taylor, J. (1998). Pregnancy among women with a history of injection drug use. Drugs and Society, 13, 177-192. . (Reprinted in Women and Substance Abuse: Gender Transparency (1998), S. J. Stevens and H. K. Wexler, editors, Binghamton, NY: Haworth.).

McElrath, K., Chitwood, D. D., and Comerford, M. (1997). Crime victimization among injection drug users. Journal of Drug Issues, 27, 771-783. (Reprinted in Readings on Drugs and Society: The Criminal Connection (2006), M. S. Kelley, editor, Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon).

McElrath, K. (1997). If you’ve come a ‘seeking justice, no Irish need apply: Irish republicans, political asylum, and United States foreign policy. Critical Criminology, 8, 93-107.

Baker, T. and K. McElrath (1997). Insurance claims discrimination. In Insurance Redlining, Gregory D. Squires, editor. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press.

Baker, T. and K. McElrath (1996). Whose safety net? Home insurance and inequality. Law and Social Inquiry, 21, 229-264.

McElrath, K. and Taylor, D. L. (1996). Gender and earnings in academic criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 7, 35-44.

McElrath, K., Dunham, R., Cromwell, P. (1995). Validity of self-reported drug use among arrestees in five cities. Journal of Criminal Justice, 23, 531-540.

McElrath, K., Chitwood, D. D., Griffin, D., and Comerford, M. (1994). The consistency of self-reported HIV risk behavior among injection drug users. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 1965-1970.

McElrath, K. (1994). A comparison of two methods for examining inmates' self-reported drug use. International Journal of the Addictions, 29, 517-524.

Taylor, D., Chitwood, D. D., McElrath, K., and Belgrave, L. (1994). Ethnicity, gender, social support and injection drug use. Journal of Black Psychology, 20, 36-46.

Cromwell, P. and McElrath, K. (1994). Buying stolen property: An opportunity perspective. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31, 295-310.

McElrath, K. (1993). Gender, career disruption, and academic rewards. Journal of Higher Education, 63, 269-281.

Kleck, G. and McElrath, K. (1991). The effects of weaponry on human violence. Social Forces, 69, 669-692.

McElrath, K. (1990). Standing in the shadows: Academic mentoring in criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 1, 135-151.

Sykes, G., Vito, G., and McElrath, K. (1987). Jail populations and crime rates: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Police Science and Administration, 15, 72-77.


McElrath, K. (2008). Drug Misuse and Drug Service Provision in Dundalk:Improving the Community’s Response. Dundalk: Dundalk Drugs Advisory Group.

McElrath, K. and Jordan, M. (2005). Drug Use and Risk Behaviours among Injecting Drug Users. Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

McElrath, K. (2003). Review of Research on Substitute Prescribing for Opiate Dependence and Implications for N. Ireland. Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

McElrath, K. (2002). Prevalence of Problem Heroin Use in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

McElrath, K. (2001). Heroin Use in Northern Ireland: A Qualitative Study into Heroin Users’ Lifestyles, Experiences, and Risk Behaviours (1997-1999). Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

McElrath, K. and McEvoy, K. (1999). Ecstasy Use in Northern Ireland. London: The Stationery Office.

Other work in the drug field

Specialist Advisor, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Inquiry into the Drugs Trade and Drug Misuse in Northern Ireland, 2003.

Advisory Board, Turas Counseling Services (2008-2009); South Belfast Drug Outreach Project (2002-2006); Belfast Youth Longitudinal Study (1999-2004); Dunlewey Substance Advice Centre (2004-2009).

Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Working Group, (Northern Ireland), Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2001-2003).

Co-Organiser (with Professor Dale D. Chitwood, University of Miami, Florida), Emergent Drug Issues for the 21st Century. Workshop sponsored by Queen’s University and the University of Miami.