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What is the relationship between drug abuse and criminal behaviour?

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What is the relationship between drug abuse and criminal behaviour? By the early 1990s, Britain had developed a polydrug culture with the use of a variety of illegal and legal drugs (Davis & Ditton, 1990). No longer is drug culture supposedly hidden away in a sub-culture; now it is argued that it is part of mainstream culture. In Britain the link between heroin use and crime became more noticeable since the 1980s with increased concern in the 1990s about the growth of organised gang crime in the inner cities, e.g. Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and South London. The illegality of certain drugs obviously makes their possession, supply or preparation and manufacture an offence (McBride & McCoy, 1982) but the debate about the drugs-crime relationship is wider than this. Studies have largely focused on heroin and crime tending to exclude more casual recreational drug use (McBride & McCoy, 1982) and it is important to remember that the majority of studies on drugs and crime concern men, with neglect of research on women. Crime related to the use of drugs may be categorised as follows: Commonest are offences such as possession and trafficking, which result directly from the legal sanctions against the illicit use of drugs; then follows the predominantly acquisitive drug related crime or street crime which arises ...read more.


amphetamines and strong forms of cannabis although tranquillisers and barbiturates may cause aggression with higher doses (Bihl & Peterson, 1993). Drug and alcohol "cocktails" consumed often by chaotic drug users have unpredictable effects on the user's level of aggression and may even be life-threatening. The paranoia caused with most of these drugs or the comedown after certain drugs, e.g. Ecstasy and amphetamines, can also lead to aggression. Women comprise about 30% of notified addicts and 20% of drug users reported in community surveys (Parker et al, 1987) and they also commit acquisitive crime to sustain their habit but clinical experience suggests that this is more likely to involve shoplifting than burglary. Prostitution is reported by about 5% of clients attending clinics and may be as common among men as women. Legislation and drug-related crime Legislation introduced since the early twentieth century curbing the use of drugs has been linked to the growth of illegal drug markets and the criminalisation of both users and dealers. To detach drug use from the criminal sub-culture of trafficking, police officers and policymakers are advocating alternatives such as harm reduction(education and clinical approaches) or the decriminalisation of certain categories of drugs (usually soft drugs, particularly cannabis). ...read more.


Some significant studies (Weipert et al, 1979; Bennett & Right, 1986) reported maintenance having little clear impact on criminal activity. However, there is evidence that flexible drug treatment programmes can retain patients and reduce criminal activity (Jarvis & Parker, 1990). A number of studies suggest that unrealistic goals and unattractive abstinence orientations will lead to client dropout, a possible increased involvement in crime and a chaotic lifestyle (Hartnoll et al, 1980; Pearson, 1991). According to Nadelson (1989), the relationship between drugs and crime could be : 1. To get access to drugs, e.g. robbery; 2. Coincidental because users tend to be antisocial personalities; 3. Those involved in drug dealing often resolve disputes violently; 4. The direct pharmacological effect of drugs which affects different individuals in various ways. It is clear that the relationship between alcohol and drugs and criminal behaviour is far from straightforward. As Wilson & Herrnstin stress, one has to decide whether the relationship between alcohol or drug use and criminality is: a) spurious, i.e. there is some other cause of the behaviour; b) direct, i.e. drink changes behaviour; c) conditionally causal depending on other factors like a provocative situation; d) some other common cause, i.e. an anti-social personality may lead to both. ...read more.

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