The Drug Crime Relationship.

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There is no question that drugs and crime are related, however difficulty stands when trying to establish a causal connection between the two. According to Ronald Akers, ‘compared to the abstaining teenager, the drinking, smoking and drug taking teen is much more likely to be getting into fights, stealing, hurting other people and committing other delinquencies’ (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). At a surface level, drugs and crime are linked as it is a criminal offence to possess certain substances unlawfully, however when looking deeper, where drugs are said to cause, influence or be associated with offending behaviour the subject becomes quite unclear. Three major models exist that examine the drugs-crime link and will be discussed thoroughly throughout this essay. Firstly is the model that suggests drug use leads to crime and offending behaviour. It offers the explanation that drug-users are enslaved, or behaving in ways which satisfy the craving which very often leads to participating in criminal behaviour. A second model explains that crime leads to drug use, and the third that drug use and crimes have a common aetiology. Throughout this essay these models will be examined deeply in order to try and best understand the relationship between drug use and offending behaviour. The idea that drug use leads to crime is by far the most believed and most popular idea out of the three. The reasons for this may lie in its heavy belief from the media and the government. It is sometimes represented as a direct causal effect and sometimes as just an association. There does stand much evidence in support of this theory, however no research identifies a direct causal link which will be noted later. One study carried out in this field gave the police power to perform drug tests on detainees in police custody and gave the courts the power to order the drug testing of offenders under the supervision of the probation service. In total they carried out a collective of 1,835 tests and found positive results in 63% of those tested in London, 58% of those tested in Nottingham and 47% of those tested in Strafford and Cannock. For those on probation over half tested positive ( Mallender et al. 2002, citied in Bean 2008). While support stands for this view, variations exist in the way drug use is said to cause crime. Three broad categories exist, firstly the psychopharmacological explanations, secondly the economic explanations and thirdly the drug-lifestyle explanation. Firstly the psychopharmacological explanations consider the effects of the drug chemicals have upon the human organism and what the behavioural outcomes may be. For example, the psychopharmacological model says that drugs cause violence because of their direct effects, as an effect users become impatient, irritable, energetic and irrational often leading to criminal behaviour. Goldstein (1985) believes the psychopharmacological model to be a direct effect model and argues that ‘some individuals, as a result of short or long term ingestion of specific substances, may become excitable, irrational, and may exhibit violent behaviour’. Brochu (2001) claims that many drugs ‘act on specific areas of the nervous system, including the frontal lobe and the limbic system, where the centres of aggressiveness and impulsiveness are located’ (Bennett and Holloway). While these are considered to be direct and instantaneous effects of drug use, in practice the psychopharmacological effects of drugs on crime are expected to function indirectly. Parker and Auerhahn (1998) stress from their research the overwhelming importance of the context in the relationship between substance use and violent behaviour, and as MacCoun et al (2002) claim ‘it may be that no drug is sufficient to produce aggression in isolation from psychological and situational moderators.’ (Bennett and Holloway). The second variation on how ‘drugs cause crime’ is the economic explanation. This is very often referred to as...
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