Drug addiction and crime have become major social problems in many societies around the globe. Crime scholarship has suggested that the intricate relationship between drug use further aggravates the situation of crime- usage of drugs leads to crime and, in turn, crime leads to drugs abuse, resulting in drug crime cycle (Gottfredson, Kearley & Bushway, 2008). Drug use and its resultant criminal activities have been explained by three models: The pharmacological, economic motivation and systematic models. According to the pharmacological model, intoxication from drug use leads to crime as a result of poor judgment and cognitive distortions. The economic motivation model presupposes that people commit crimes like burglary, drug sales, and robbery to support their drug addiction habits. The systematic model expounds on the intertwined process of drug use and distribution which is manifested in the form of assaults, skirmishes and robberies (Gottfredson, Kearley, & Bushway, 2008, p. 602). This paper explores the relationship between drug use and crime. A suggestion of potential solutions to the drug and crime cycle will also be given.
Quantification of the problem of Drug Use and Cycle of Crime
Recent research findings have indicated that there is a strong link between drug abuse and participation in criminal activities. A majority of offenders or suspects of serious crimes have been found to have used drugs and alcohol. For instance, fifty to eighty percent of people arrested in the U.S fail the drug test after an arrest, suggesting use of either alcohol or other drugs before being arrested (Austin & Irwin, 2012). According to the U.S Drug Abuse Institute, half of Americans are likely to use drugs during their lifetime. Further, 118 million people admit of using drugs at a tender age of 12 years. Moreover, over 128 million Americans acknowledge having used illicit drugs in the recent past- at least in the last one month. Although there are millions of illegal users of drugs in the United States, only 1.6 million get arrested yearly of which 1.3 million are found in possession of illegal drugs (Austin & Irwin, 2012).National data shows that in the year 2008 illicit drug use among individuals with 12 years and above in America was approximately 14.2 percent. In this category, Marijuana was the most common illicit drug used with 25.8 million people using it while psychotherapeutics use was second with 15.2 million people. The use of cocaine was third with 5.3 million whereas 0.453 million Americans were identified and categorized as heroin users were (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2010).
The link between drugs and crime has also been reflected in the arrestee data. For example, according to data from ADAM II program meant for monitoring of drug abuse among convicts in 2008, the average percentage of a positive drug test for male convicts was 67.6 percent. National surveys have found strong links between drug and crime. For instance, in 2002 and 2004, it was established that 17 and 18 percent of state and federal prisoners committed their offenses to get money for drugs respectively. Additionally, drug and property offenders were likely to commit crimes than public-order and violent offenders to get money for illicit drugs (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2010).
The Need to Curb the Problem
It is apparent that drug abuse and crime are great impediments not only to the prosperity of society but also poses an enormous threat to lives of future generations. Illicit drug use has various consequences on individuals which range from permanent emotional disorders to physical damage to users, thereby affecting their friends, fellow workers, and families. Consumption of drugs also leads to negative impacts on the users' health such as disease development. Sometimes, in extreme cases, drug users die due to drug dependency and overdose. As a result, many children of deceased parents end up living with relatives or end up in foster care. Data compiled by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) from 2002 to 2007 indicated that 2.1 million children in the US lived with an illicit drug dependent parent and one in every ten children under 18 was in a family of substance-abuse or addicted parent. Further, the Health and Human Services Department estimated that two-thirds cases of foster care constituted of substance abuse in 1999 (National Drug Intelligence Center, 2010).These statistics reveal a social problem destroying both the lives of the current generations and that of the future generations. Such dire situation requires urgent attention from all stakeholders.
Illicit drug use and crime cycles have negative impacts on the criminal justice system. For instance, there is a waste of resources in every stage of the justice department starting from arresting the suspect, adjudication process, incarceration, releasing suspects and supervision. Additionally, premature deaths, injuries, and illness that incapacitate victims and imprisonment, directly and indirectly, affect national productivity. Resources used in the criminal justice and health department due to drug trafficking and usage could be used in development initiatives (Austin & Irwin, 2012; Lowenkamp et al., 2005). Put simply, the drug and crime cycle wastes national financial resources and human capital.
Potential Solutions to the Drug and Crime Cycle Problem
More emphasis on the role of courts in reducing drug trade and drug trafficking can mitigate the problem. Most criminal justice departments have developed drug courts and other initiatives that reduce crime and drug addiction cycle among users. One meta-analyses study across the U.S concluded that the courts decreased drug abuse and crime by 35 percent compared to other alternatives. The study further established that the courts make offenders adhere to treatment six times more as compared to other rehabilitation methods However, a majority lack resources to deliver their mandate (Lowenkamp et al., 2005). As such, the courts need to be given adequate resources to enhance their capabilities in the performance of this all-important function.
Another approach that can be used to tackle the problem of drug abuse and crime is the treatment of incarcerated persons and free civilian users or ex-convicts. Studies seeking to determine outcomes of treatment on offenders have concluded that drug treatment is an effective intervention. These studies further indicate that more benefits accrue to society when the victims are treated rather being jailed. For instance, drug users' treatment interventions have been found to cost one-seventh of the cost incurred by the criminal justice system to implement law enforcement relating to drug use and crime (Rydell, Caulkins, & Everingham, 1996).The strength of evidence on the benefits of treatment needs to be integrated with other mechanisms considering that crime is a psychosocial problem.
Educating and training of drug abuse victims can be a viable solution to the issue of drug use and the cycle of crime. Drug and crime education enlightens people, especially prisoners with crime and drug abuse problems, on dangers of continued use of drugs. Training can further be used to give drug users, convicts and ex-convicts the opportunity to learn about alternative ways of eking out a living without necessarily engaging in drugs selling of drugs and engaging drug-related crime (International Centre for Crime Prevention, 2015).
Drug and crime pose a significant challenge to the United States and remains an issue of concern in the American society. The socioeconomic cost drug abuse and crime are enormous.
The pervasiveness of this problem in society requires more attention than before. Given this, laying more emphasis on setting up of drug courts, the establishment of rehabilitation centers and educating victims, relatives and the public the adverse effects of drugs and crime on society can play a vital role in alleviating the problem of drug use and the cycle of crime in the United States.
Austin, J. & Irwin, J. (2012). It's Time: America's Imprisonment Binge (4th e.ds). Belmont, CA Wadsworth.
Gottfredson, C. D., Kearley, W., B., Bushway, D. S. (2008). Substance use, drug treatment, and crime: An Examination of Intra-Individual Variation in a Drug Court Population.Journal of Drug Issues. Retrieved from https://ccjs.umd.edu/sites/ccjs.umd.edu/files/pubs/gottfredsonJDI.pdf
International Centre for the Prevention of Crime. (2015). Prevention of drug-related crime report. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/Contributions/Civil/ICPC/Rapport_FINAL_ENG_2015.pdf
Lowenkamp et al. (2005). Are drug courts effective: A meta-analytic review?. Journal of Community Corrections, Fall, 5-28;
Rydell, C., P., Caulkins, J., P. & Everingham, S. (1996). Enforcement or Treatment? Modeling the Relative Efficacy of Alternatives for Controlling Cocaine. Santa Monica, Calif: RAND Corporation.
U.S. Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center. (2010) National Drug Threat Assessment report 2010. Mthngr4 Retrieved fromhttps://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs38/38661/drugImpact.htm
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