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Relationship between Drug Use and Crime

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3274 words Published: 1st Dec 2021

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The Relationship between Drugs Use and Crime or Not? An exploration of the drugs-crime theories.

Past research reveals the relationship between drugs use and crime as one of the most analytically scrutinised, consistently attained, and acknowledged connections within the criminal psychology literature (Bennett & Holloway, 2006; Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990; McBride & Swartz, 1990; Sullivan &Hamilton, 2007; Welte, Zhang & Wieczorek, 2001, as cited in Riordan, 2017).  Several authors have attempted to form a fundamental connection between drugs use and crime; however, evidence for this connection proved challenging (White & Gorman, 2000; Wilczynski, & Pigott, 2004). 

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Moreover, frequent drugs users seem to exhibit criminal behaviour, and among the criminal arrests, several of them are involved in crime due to illegal substance abuse (Goldstein, 1985; Inciardi, 1986; McBride & Swartz, 1990; Speckart & Anglin, 1985, as cited in Riordan, 2017).  However, other authors have argued that the drugs-crime relationship should not ignore other factors such as a person’s culture, economic position, environment they live in and their behaviour tendencies (Everitt & Robbins, 2013; Robinson & Berridge, 2008; Zinberg, 1984). For example, Craddock, Collins and Timrots (1994) argue that the consumer tends to participate in illicit activity relating to drugs trading. Hence, it can be argued that socioeconomic and environmental factors should be considered in regards to the connection between drugs and crime.

Furthermore, Craddock, Collins and Timrots (1994) classified cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines as drugs having abuse prospect. Hence, for this essay, all these above drugs shall be considered for empirical evidence and shall not focus on one substance in particular. Additionally, this essay shall explore the fundamental relationship between drugs use and crime by expanding on three schools of thoughts or models namely: firstly the school of thought suggesting that drugs lead to crime, secondly, it is proposed that crime lead to drugs and crime, and finally, there is a debate that drugs use/crime are affected by other factors.

Models/Theories related to drugs use and crime

The growth of empirical evidence has developed from general studies to more focused studies on precise drugs consumers and various models of criminal behaviour. In the past, there have been several established theories to explain the drugs and crime connection. Each theory shall be described below to explain the relationship between drugs use and crime. The crime leads to drugs use, drugs use cause crime, and common cause are the three models to be further discussed (Bennett & Holloway, 2006; White, 1990, White & Gorman, 2000). Furthermore, Goldstein’s (1985) tripartite model, including the psychopharmacological model, the economic motivation model and the systemic model have emphasised on the theory of drug use leads to crime. These above models shall be further elaborated with the support of empirical evidence.

Crime leads to drugs

White & Gorman (2000) argue that the hypothesis behind the crime leading to drugs abuse theories is that aberrant people have more probability of participating in heavy drinking and drugs subcultures. Hence, participating in a criminal environment offers the person the background, reference group and circumstances that impact on ensuing involvement in drugs use (White, 1990; White & Gorman, 2000). Parker and Auerhahn (1998 as cited in Bean, 2014) stated that our analysis of the literature discovers much proof that the social environment contributes far more to the result of aggressive behaviour than biochemical variables (p. 306 – to check quotation). This model also focuses on self-medication, which can be seen as an individualistic approach whereby a person utilises an excuse to participate in illegal behaviour.  Moreover, the model considers the routine and sub-cultural descriptions, for example, the skilled criminal lifestyles that are also beneficial to drugs use, such as regular work, decadent objectives, bachelorhood, and adopting a short life (White & Gorman, 2000).

Several ethnographic and longitudinal studies support the crime leads to drug use model. In the United States, studies on drugs-abusing criminals demonstrate the relatively high connection rate between drugs use and crime. For instance, heroin consumers have been observed as the conformists of this trend compared to other drugs except for cocaine. Also, predatory offenders repeatedly and commonly utilise massive quantities of various drugs kinds– that is, polyaddicts or polyusers. The latter has a substantially higher rate of committing offence over an extended period compared to lower drugs consumers. During periods when they use no heroin, predatory offenders commit fewer offences. There is a range between 80 and 100 serious property crimes committed by male consumers yearly, whereas females prostitute themselves for the drugs payment (Chaiken & Chaiken 1990).

MacCoun and Reuter (2002) further concluded that there is substantial study proof to support it in the United States, Britain or Europe (ibid.), however no substantial evidence of a cause and effect relationship connection. For instance, Mallender, Roberts, & Seddon (2002) study in the UK concluded that more than half of the criminals tested were positive to heroin and cocaine after being incarcerated. Additionally, Bennett and Sibbitt (2000) study on drugs uses among arrestees indicated that sixty-nine per cent were positive for at least one substance. Similar outcomes were reached in 16 locations across UK and Wales (Bennett & Sibbitt, 2000). Hence, these findings demonstrate that crime might lead to drugs use afterwards. However, other authors argue that it is the drugs use that lead to crime.

Drugs use leads to crime

Goldstein’s (1985) tripartite conceptual framework explains the drugs leads to crime model through first the drugs psychopharmacological impacts; the financial incentive to buy more drugs; the systemic violence connected with the illicit drugs trade (Goldstein, 1985;  White & Gorman, 2000). Initially, the psychopharmacological model denotes the long-term utilisation of illicit drugs might lead to aggressive and violent behaviours. Current research demonstrate the strong link between alcohol and violent crime, for example. Even though, the pharmacology of most substances is understood, the precise explanation of how they provoke aggressive behaviours are not entirely known. It is argued that some drugs causes psychotic behaviours and may worsen current behavioural issues. However, there is no drug known for its criminal properties as the environment of the induvial can also play a role in the impact of the drug on their behaviour.

In contrast, a psychosomatic explanation reports for modifications in behaviour concerning the consumption of drugs by focusing on psychological mechanisms that are believed to be temporally associated with crime and criminal conduct, such as character variables, a psychological genetic disposition to violence and other dysfunctions (Fagan, 1990). Therefore, the intoxication state can be interpreted as a sign of these biological factors, or behavioural modifications are reflective of a more critical vibrant character (Fagan, 1990; Mayfield, 1983). The emotional and biochemical reasons are unclear in isolation and may be inaccurate (Riordan, 2017).

Moreover, the economic compulsive model is the most prevalent and openly recognised characteristic of the drugs leads to crime connection using the Goldstein’s (1985) model. It is said that drugs customers are engaged in economically driven crime to sustain a costly drugs habit (Goldstein 1985). It is feasible that drugs consumers have a lawful origin of revenue, however as Weston and Cole (1973, as cited in Riordan, 2017) have mentioned accurately, a substantial proportion of drugs consumers have small rates of personal revenue, so substance consumers do not undertake offences because drugs dependence supports the argument against constant jobs. Where acquisitive crime participation occurs, the most prevalent kinds of crime are anticipated to be homicide, burglary, robbery, and prostitution in return for drugs or cash to buy drugs (Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990; White & Gorman, 2000). Furthermore,  in the economic model, six main variables encourage an individual’s involvement in a crime: 1) the likelihood of criminal sanction; 2) the anticipated seriousness of the criminal sanction; 3) the projected return to the legal labour market; 4) the projected return to illegal activities; the number of original wealth and the person’s “tastes” (Witte, 1983, as cited in Riordan, 2017).  

Besides, the Goldstein (1985) model's final characteristic, systematic crime, stems from drugs economies and networks of drugs allocation. Goldstein (1985) argues there is an occurrence mostly between dealers and consumers but broadens to other aspects such as police fraud. The systemic model relies on the allocation and use of drugs scheme. In the drugs community, business trafficking is the most omnipresent and ongoing crime (Hunt, 1990). Users at all stages of the continuum of substance use are inclined to receive drugs at some stage in their substance use life, either through buying or exchanging (Hunt, 1990; Johnson, Kaplan & Schmeidler, 1990). 

The systemic model moreover argues that the drugs use and distribution scheme is naturally linked to the criminal activity via the violent relationships that happen during the drugs production and use cycle (Coomber, 2010; Goldstein, 1985). The violent or abusive climate in which the allocation, distribution and the use of drugs occurs is established and aggravated by prohibitionist economic policies established to reduce illegal drugs use, which in effect generates a “black” or “dark” market (Coomber, 2010; Jacques, Rosenfield, Wright & Gemert, 2016).

Goldstein (1985) presented various examples of systemic violence, for instance, conflicts between competing drugs dealers over land; attacks and murders undertaken as a way of implementing normative rules in the context of coping with hierarchies; substance dealers ' robberies and the dealer or his / her superiors' generally brutal retribution; elimination of informers. Goldstein (1985) speculated that with continuing substance use and participation either as a dealer, consumer or frequently as both in the drugs trafficking, the person's likelihood of being both a perpetrator and a survivor of domestic associated violence is enhanced. Therefore, the perpetrators of systemic model are usually those involved in illegal use and selling or even engaged in the drugs company at some stage (Goldstein, 1985; McBride & Swartz, 1990).

Causal model

The model of the common cause suggested that the relationship between drugs and crime is not correlational, but instead, drugs abuse and crime share some common reasons. This implies that shared causal origins may result from their joint event (Watters, Reinarman & Fagan, 1985).  The common cause theory emerged from studies that discovered illegal conduct to be focused among people engaged in both severe drugs use and severe harassing behaviour (Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990; Menard & Mihalic, 2001). Jessor and Jessor (1977) proposed that substance usage, criminal conduct and liquor use have all been determinants connected with such a violent behaviour syndrome; indicating that such behaviours are the expression of a single fundamental concept.

Several of the prevalent factors recognized which are believed to also be underlying substance use and criminal behaviour fit into mental, contextual, and cultural groups, such as developmental, temperamental, narcissistic personality disorder, marital alcoholism, and poor family connections (Abram, 1989; Watters, Reinarman & Fagan, 1985; White, 1990; White & Gorman, 2000). Accessible variables involve cultural disorganisation, unemployment, highly populated populations, temporary communities, and inadequate community facilities within economic and situational triggers. Populations where demand is high or where legitimate jobs opportunities are scarce, and people are willing to create more cash from criminal activity are far more probable to have a high murder rate and an increased drugs use rate (Ford & Beveridge, 2004). Generally speaking, the more aberrant the atmosphere, the more likely a child or an adolescent is to perform poorly in college, use illegal drugs and participate in crime (Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990). It was also discovered that some locations and circumstances, for example night clubs, bars, lead to higher levels of drugs use and crime (White & Gorman, 2000). Besides, the absence of lawful infrastructure reduces social cohesion and rises crime rate and violence among the community (Ford & Beveridge, 2004).

To conclude, it can be observed that the drugs and crime relationship has been well-studied over the years. Some authors shall argue that drugs use leads to crime; however, for others, it is the opposite. Hence, the drugs-crime relationship is challenging to define because most offences are the outcome of a multitude of variables (private, situational, social, financial), so they are probable to be only one variable among several, even though drugs are a source. What is intended by "drugs-related" differs from research to research; some research regards the pure existence of drugs as being causally relevant, while other studies more closely understand the connection (Craddock, Collins & Timrots, 1994).


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