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Substance abuse and its effect on crime

12-16-15 Category: Drug Addiction

Substance abuse and its effect on crime

An estimated 80 percent of offenses resulting in incarceration in the United States involve alcohol or drugs. Nearly 50 percent of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted, and approximately 60 percent of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illegal drugs. Crime and drugs go hand-in-hand.

Alcohol and crime

Research from the late 1960s to today has indicated alcohol as the most common substance involved in violent crimes. Alcohol abuse and violence have always been associated in American culture. The days of Prohibition saw violent rivalries between bootleggers, and today, high rates of alcohol-mediated domestic violence, killings, vehicular accidents and traumatic injuries prevail.

Because alcohol use is legal and pervasive, it plays a particularly strong role in crime and other social problems. Alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes today, and according to the Department of Justice, 37 percent of almost 2 million convicted offenders reported drinking at the time of their arrest.

Alcohol often factors in violence where the attacker and the victim know each other.  Two-thirds of victims who were attacked by an intimate reported alcohol to be involved, while only 31 percent of attacks by strangers were alcohol-related.

Drugs and crime

The relationship between drugs and crime is complex. It remains ambiguous whether drug use leads people into criminal activity or whether drug users are already inclined to criminal behavior.

There are essentially three types of crimes related to drugs:

  • Use-related crime: crimes that result from or involve individuals who ingest drugs, and who commit crimes as a result of the influence of the drug
  • Economic-related crime: crimes committed to fund a drug habit
  • System-related crime: crimes resulting from the production, manufacture, transportation and sale of drugs, and any associated violence

The National Institute of Justice Drug Use Forecasting Program measured drug use among arrestees by calculating the percentage of individuals with positive urine tests for drug use. Data collected from male arrestees in 1992 in 24 cities indicated the percentage testing positive for any drug to range from 42 percent to 79 percent. Those charged with drug sale or possession were the most likely to test positive. Positive drug tests for females arrested ranged from 38 percent to 85 percent. Those charged with prostitution, drug sale or drug possession were likeliest to test positive. Both males and females arrested for burglary and robbery had high positive rates.


About half of state and federal prisoners meet the criteria for drug abuse and dependence, yet fewer than 20 percent who need treatment receive it.

Preventing future crime and re-arrests is impossible without treatment of addiction. Approximately 95 percent of inmates return to substance abuse after release from prison, and 60 to 80 percent of drug abusers commit another crime afterwards.

Research has indicated that declining substance abuse also takes down the criminal behavior with it. Profound results may surface if jails and prisons also become places of recovery ad getting the help one needs.

A study found that each dollar spent on substance abuse treatment saved $5.60 in terms of fewer arrests, incarcerations and less child welfare and medical costs. Because criminal behavior decreases as substance use does, it follows that drug prevention and treatment will save valuable tax dollars.

Sovereign Health focuses treatment on the individual to ensure a sustained recovery and reintegration into society as a contributing member. Before addiction takes over your life, reach out to us right away.

Written by Sana Ahmed, Sovereign Health Group writer

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