THERE is debate about whether drug use ‘leads’ to crime or the reverse. The Australian Institute of Criminology conducted the Drug use careers of offenders (DUCO) study in order to examine the interaction between criminal offending and drug use patterns. A total of 470 females and 2,135 males incarcerated in Australian prisons were interviewed. The project, which was funded by the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, identified gender differences in the temporal order of drug use and crime. Using the self-reported age of first drug use and first criminal offence, this study shows that female prisoners were equally divided in the sequence of their drug use and offending initiation. A similar proportion of female prisoners reported illicit drug use before offending (35%) as they did offending before illicit drug use (34%). Male prisoners were more likely to have engaged in offending before drug use (54%) and were less likely than women to have used drugs prior to offending (17%). These results suggest that illicit drugs may play a different role in the development of a criminal career for women as compared with men.