As indicated, a necessary element in the calculation of attributable fractions is reliable data on the extent of the causal relationship between drug use and crime . a raw correlation between drug use and other criminal offenses. But corre- lation does not equal causation: In principle, drug use might cause (pro- mote. The relationship between drugs and crime is complex, and one question is whether drug use leads people into criminal activity or whether.
The RR increase in non-serious acquisitive crime was greater than that seen in serious crime. For males only, opiate initiation narrowed the difference in violent offending rate between cases and controls. A larger offending increase was associated with opiate initiation in female, compared to male, users.
Conclusions For most crime categories, the difference between groups is exacerbated by opiate initiation. The findings indicate that opiate prevention initiatives might be effective in reducing offending, particularly among females.
Offending, Opiate use, Life-course offending 1. Introduction Those dependent on heroin, and other opiates, are disproportionately involved in criminal activity Bennett et al. The drugs-crime association is an important driver of UK policy, reflected in its prominence in the drug strategies of successive governments HM Government,Home Office, Explanations of this association fall into three groups: Forward causation — drug use causes crime either through the need to: Reverse causation — involvement with crime leads to drug use: Confounding — crime and drug use share a common set of cause s: The underlying causal mechanism s is likely to be more complex than these explanations suggest Bennett and Holloway,Seddon, Our previous work has highlighted the need for longitudinal studies with a non-drug user comparison group to examine the natural history of drug use and offending Hayhurst et al.
How much crime is drug or alcohol related? Self-reported attributions of police detainees
Current evidence about the development of drug use and offending is constrained by design flaws in published studies, particularly the absence of suitable control groups.
Our recent review of the evidence base on pathways through opiate use and offending Hayhurst et al. A typical example is the study by Anglin and Speckartwhich examined the criminal records and clinical data of male methadone patients. Most studies which make this comparison find that offending rates are substantially higher after drug-use initiation Hayhurst et al.
Illegal Drug Use and Crime: A Complex Relationship
In general population samples, offending rates tend to peak during late adolescence Sweeten et al. To disentangle the age effects from those of drug-use initiation, it is crucial to control for age, using an appropriate control group.
This paper reports a retrospective cohort analysis to compare the historical offending trajectory of offenders according to drug test result. Prior analysis on this cohort considered offending rates in the two years prior to drug-test and found that testing positive for opiates was a greater predictor of excess offending than testing positive for cocaine. We therefore focus on opiate use, by comparing the historical offending trajectory of offenders who test positive for opiate use opiate positives with a control group who test negative for both opiate and cocaine use test-negatives.
This comparison is performed for all offences committed and for three offence categories serious acquisitive, non-serious acquisitive, violent whilst controlling for age and birth cohort, and separately by gender. Information about the age of first opiate use is used to consider whether the contrast between opiate positives and test-negatives is similar both before, and after, the initiation of opiate use.
The following hypotheses are considered: The initiation of opiate use exacerbates the level of offending compared to negative testers; 3. The effect of opiate-use initiation is different for males and females. The effect of opiate-use initiation differs by crime type. Data The analysis cohort was identified from those who received a saliva drug test for opiate and cocaine metabolites following arrest, as recorded by the Drug Test Record DTRover the period 1st April to 31st March This cohort has been described in detail elsewhere Pierce et al.
The age range restriction was applied since the profile of individuals whose offending persists into their 40s may be atypical Moffitt,Moffitt and Caspi, From the analysis cohort, we define opiate-positive cases as those who, on arrest, tested positive for opiates and negative tester controls as those who tested negative for opiates and cocaine. Data are retained on positive and negative saliva test results, test dates, reason for test and basic demographic information.
Those who test positive are required to attend an initial assessment with a drugs worker who will help the user seek treatment and other support. Key Porter Books, However, evidence supporting this model is limited. The few empirical elements are drawn from research which presents numerous methodological problems and does not really help to understand the specific effects of certain drugs. The following paragraphs present research findings which show that many criminal acts, some of them violent, are committed in Canada each year under the influence of a drug.
There was a rather clear distinction between acquisitory crimes and violent crimes in the prevalence of use of drugs and alcohol. While homicides and, more pronouncedly, assaults and wounding were predominantly alcohol-related, crimes such as thefts and break and enter showed a higher prevalence of drug use on the day of the crime.
The study, which dealt specifically with illegal drug use and crime, produced the following main findings: In other words, nothing in these findings clearly demonstrates that the criminal act would not have been committed if the individual had not been under the influence of drugs.
Moreover, the findings based on the link that the offender sees between his or her drug use and his or her crimes should be significantly clarified. In the view of various researchers,  some inmates prefer to associate their criminal behaviour with their drug use.
This enables them to attribute responsibility for their actions to an outside cause, i. Although for many inmates this association is indisputable, research has shown that some individuals use it as an excuse for their behaviour and to unburden themselves of part of the weight of the offence.
According to the survey results, three-quarters of respondents admitted that drinking could serve as a pretext for using violence. This deficiency forces a recognition of the fact that the reasons for violence and criminal activity go beyond the properties of the drugs themselves. Although many studies indicate that some people used illegal drugs the day they committed their crime, there is little empirical evidence in the scientific literature to establish a direct link between crime, violence and the psychopharmacological effects of drugs.
Substance abuse and criminal activity Before moving on to crime and violence caused by the illegal drug market, this section examines another aspect that may explain the link between drug use and crime, i. More specifically, according to this explanatory model of the drug-crime relationship, the compelling and recurrent need for drugs and their high price lead some users to commit crimes to obtain the money they need to buy drugs.
This model focuses on individuals who have developed a dependence on expensive drugs and assumes that the large amounts of money associated with frequent use of certain illegal drugs constitute an incentive for criminal action. This explanation of the relationship between drugs and crime is well supported in the literature and the media.
Many people attribute a great percentage of crime to this economic-compulsive link. The offenders themselves promote this association by swearing to anyone who will listen that the single cause of their involvement in crime is their heavy [drug] use. For many, this statement is indisputable. For others, some doubt persists because, in some instances, there is a clear benefit to be gained in accepting the label of addict: Some Canadian and foreign studies have shown that the rate of use of illegal drugs is much higher among people who have been in contact with the criminal justice system than among the general population.
According to one study conducted by Forget in more than one-third of the individuals interviewed at the Montreal Detention Centre said that they had committed their crimes for the purpose of buying drugs.
Similarly, the study by Brochu et al. That was the case for inmates who had committed the following crimes: The study also appears to confirm a strong link between the use of expensive drugs and the commission of criminal acts. As discussed above, some offenders consciously or not use this strategy to justify their behaviour and reject responsibility for their actions.
Regular use of illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine is expensive. The amount spent by addicts on drugs varies from report to report.
However, researchers agree that drug addicts have three main sources of income: Heroin addicts in Amsterdam derive most of their income from social security. They also reported four times the mean number of offence types committed in the last 12 months, eight times more than the mean illegal income, and almost twice as many arrests.
To afford a better grasp of these subtle points, researchers have proposed a typology consisting of three categories of users: With regard to occasional users, the research tends to show that most will never use illegal drugs regularly. In the vast majority of cases, moreover, they will never adopt a deviant lifestyle and will generally choose legal ways of financing their illegal drug use.
In most cases, crime will be a means of last resort. This explanation of the relationship between drugs and crime seems particularly appropriate for young people.
For dependent users, dependency will very often have the effect of increasing their involvement in crime. However, it must be understood that this involvement will to a large extent be determined by their circumstances, the drug they use, their lifestyle, their attraction to certain types of activities, and their economic and social resources.
The most important source of income is social security. Furthermore, crime is not the only means by which dependent users pay for drugs. Some occasional users will work overtime to make up the shortfall, while others will moonlight. They may also borrow money from friends or family members and even use resources intended for people in need e.
Types of crime committed by drug users A number of studies have shown that the type of crime which stems from the need for money created by dependence on certain drugs is generally acquisitive and non-violent.
While some of these acts may be intrinsically violent, e. It should therefore not be surprising that the crimes they most often commit are theft within the family or in the workplace, shoplifting, and the theft of small items e.
Furthermore, the economic-compulsive model largely disregards some research findings, including the fact that: Systemic link Violence is an integral part of the illegal drug distribution market. According to this explanatory model of the relationship between drugs and crime, the profit opportunities perceived by the various players in the market and the fierce competition in this illegal environment encourage involvement in crime, such as: On this point, Erickson contends that: While legally regulated markets, such as those in alcohol or pharmaceuticals, have recourse to legitimate authority to resolve disputes and set standards for fair competition, those involved in an illegal, high profit market resort mainly to force.