Drugs and Crime

How Illicit Drugs and Alcohol Contributes to Crime

Crimes are known to be closely related to substance abuse. Treating substance abuse disorder is therefore considered an intervention that can address criminal behavior. This paper synthesizes various literature to establish ways or themes of how illicit drugs and alcohol are associated with or contribute to crime. It provides essential insights for policy making as well as for addressing the problem of crime. The conclusion is that interventions for crime such as imprisonment should integrate drug abuse treatment to be more effective.

Illicit Drugs and Alcohol Are Linked to Delinquent Behaviors

Illicit drugs and alcohol contribute to crime by promoting delinquent behaviors and recidivism among adolescents. According to Braithwaite et al. (2003), delinquent behaviors which are behaviors considered against the society norms and principle of normalization such as aggressiveness, are significantly higher among adolescents who use alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy, and powder cocaine. The study shows that drug using adolescents are more likely to be involved in delinquent activities, such as theft, assault, illegal sexual activities, and threatening behavior, which all make up a crime (Braithwaite et al., 2003). The authors also note that adolescents who have been locked up previously report significant use of substances: marijuana, ecstasy, alcohol, and powder cocaine, than those who have not been locked up (Braithwaite et al., 2003). The relation between illicit drugs and crime is also evident in the criticism of the approaches to tackling crime, such as punishments and prosecution. Individuals who commit crime because of drug abuse are punished by imprisonment only to be released and commit crimes again because their drug abuse which influences criminal behavior is untreated.

Although the punishment such as imprisonment effectively reduce crime rates, they have limitations to their effectiveness and do not promote public safety in the long term (Belenko & Peugh, 1998). They do not address the underlying issues of drug and alcohol abuse, which is directly associated with crime. Illicit drugs and alcohol are implicated in many crimes. Belenko and Peugh (1998) found that about half of the inmates were under the influence of drugs and alcohol when they committed crimes. 47% of the inmates for violence crimes reported being under the influence of alcohol, while 21% reported being under the influence of other drugs, with 3% being under the influence of cocaine (Belenko & Peugh, 1998). Therefore, llicit drugs and alcohol are more linked to violent crimes, such as assault, and other crimes like property crimes.

Additionally, Belenko and Peugh (1998) show that about 75% of inmates require substance abuse treatment which addresses the root problem of criminal behavior, but only about 17% receive it. There is a need for change to integrate substance abuse treatment to reduce crime and promote reforms for released inmates. There are massive costs with the current incarceration policies, yet they are ineffective in dressing crime. Such policies are unfavorable economically, leading to increased crime rates; thus, when thousands of untreated inmates are released into society they begin engaging in crime (Belenko & Peugh, 1998). All corrections departments should treat drug abuse as the prioritized intervention for criminal behavior because of the direct relationship between the two. The delinquent behaviors can also be in the form of sexual crimes whose relation to drug abuse is discussed in the next subheading.

Associations between Drug and Alcohol Use and Sexual Assault Crimes

There is a direct association between drug and alcohol use and sexual assault. According to A self-reported study among female campus students by Krebs et al., (2009), there is a link between college women’s alcohol and, or drug use and the risk of sexual assault. The authors

gathered information about sexual assault victimization through a cross-sectional internet survey and analyzed the role of substance use. The findings show that nearly 20 % of female college students experienced some complete sexual assault. Most sexual assaults occurred after women knowingly and willingly consumed alcohol and other drugs. According to Krebs et al., some assaults involved students taking drugs and alcohol without their knowledge.

The authors note that there is mounting evidence of a link between victims’ substance abuse and sexual assault (Krebs et al., 2009). Data from an alcohol and drug survey conducted nationally revealed that 82% of students who had unsolicited sexual encounters were influenced by alcohol and other drugs (Olszewski, 2009). The authors also suggest that women who were new to the college experience; for instance, first- and second-year students, have a higher risk of sexual assault when compared to women who had more college experience, such as juniors and seniors (Olszewski, 2009). Alcohol is the psychoactive drug most frequently and historically associated with sexual opportunistic behavior and assault globally because it makes victims too drunk to consent. However, levels of recreational use and growing drug markets offer new opportunities for sexual offenders to incapacitate a victim that is faster and less expensive than alcohol.

Alcohol Outlets Relation Violence

The location of alcohol outlets is frequently linked to the prevalence of violence.

Interpersonal violence seems to be on the rise in and around the vicinity of alcohol-serving establishments, mainly bars and liquor store. There are several potential mechanism explanations for the observations of the high rate of violent crimes in and near alcohol selling establishments. The first explanation is that bars and Liquor stores frequently attract people who are likely to consume alcohol and be a part of violent interactions, such as young men (Lipton et al., 2013).

The behaviors are supported by the alcohol availability theory, which states that as alcohol consumption increases, it leads to a rise in alcohol-related problems, including a high risk of violence. This aspect is because the more alcohol people consume, the more they lose control of their behaviors (Lipton et al., 2013).

Another explanation is that retail alcohol outlets are frequently found in areas with less guardianship than others, in line with social disorganization theory (Lipton et al., 2013).

According to social disorganization theory, family preservation programs should be necessary for reducing criminal behaviors because they support good behaviors and discourage criminal behaviors. Besides, the family’s ability to resist the negative effects of social disorganization on their children and the fact that strong families may work together to avoid public disorientation in their communities.

Lastly, alcohol outlets such as bars and liquor stores offer opportunities for social interactions that could result in aggression and violence (Lipton et al., 2013). Alcohol-serving establishments can encourage more aggressive outbursts that lead to violence as people drink more and lose their ability to control emotions and behaviors. The authors investigated the relationship between bars and clubs and violent crime using a cross-sectional survey between violent crime and types of alcohol outlets in Boston, Massachusetts, in 2006 (Lipton et al., 2013). The authors found that alcohol outlets are potentially dangerous places as both generators of violent behavior and indicators or attractors of violence (Lipton et al., 2013).

Regardless of the type of alcohol outlet, there is a direct relationship between alcohol use and criminal behavior because the outlets, such as bars and liquor stores frequently attract people who are likely to consume alcohol and be a part of violent interactions (Lipton et al., 2013). They also offer opportunities for social interactions that could result in aggression and violence. A

clear correlation between illicit drugs and alcohol abuse creates the need to integrate drug abuse treatment for inmates to solve crimes. Currently, other forms of punishment, such as imprisonment, are ineffective in addressing the problem of crime because they do not address the root cause of crime which is drug abuse.

Financing Drug and Alcohol Addictions

Illicit drugs and alcohol cause crime as abusers engage in criminal behaviors, such as mugging and robbery, to get money to purchase the drugs and alcohol. There is a strong link between drug addiction and crime because drug addicts turn to crime to pay for drugs, causing harm to society (Bennett & Holloway, 2005). Shoplifting is one of the most common criminal acts for drug abusers because it provides quick money for drugs. Shoplifting is more common than other types of crimes, such as robbery and breaking and entering, used to fund drug addictions. 17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates in the United States commit offenses to obtain money for drugs (Bennett & Holloway, 2005). Drug abusers that have

an intense dependency on a drug and do not have the financial or social means to commit crimes are more likely to commit them.

Furthermore, Bennett and Holloway (2005) highlight that shoplifting is the ideal crime for drug abusers to fund their addiction because it is not violent and is an option open to both men and women. The urban drug abuse culture is a criminal hustle-a mechanism to earn money. Even though crime for earning money is prevalent across both genders, men select shoplifting crime over other crime alternatives. The authors note that daily heroin, crack cocaine, or powdered cocaine users are more likely to report committing crimes for drug money (Bennett & Holloway, 2005). Abusers who use these drugs less often and daily marijuana and methamphetamine users report the same motivation. Besides, offenders who lack access to

legitimate earnings are more likely to be motivated. Thus, economic offenses are used to sustain recreational drug use and heavy heroin and cocaine use (Bennett & Holloway, 2005).


There is a direct relationship between illicit drugs and alcohol and crime. Drugs contribute to crime in many ways with the some main ways being interfering with the normal reasoning of individuals, creating an environment for violence and aggression as the product of consumption which criminals commit crime to purchase it.

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