Abstract—The focus of this article is criminal drug users and their changing of the relationship between crime, violence and substance abuse is explored. New research explores the connection between substance abuse and do highlight how often drug and alcohol use is linked to violent crimes. One of the most significant areas of risk with the use of alcohol and drugs is the connection between alcohol, drugs and crime. Alcohol and.
Does drug use cause or lead to crime?
Or does crime lead to drug use? Could it be that those who use drugs and those who are inclined to be criminals just happen to share many characteristics in common? Properly answering these questions has important public policy implications.
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There is a general belief that the drug-crime link is causal. More importantly, it is assumed that drug use causes crime. The criminological evidence to support this belief is not as strong as some might imagine.Drug Addiction and Crime
In fact, the best available research has generally concluded that the relationship is extremely complex and defies attempts to sort out directionality. The common view, widely reflected in policy approaches here and overseas, is that at the very least drug use makes criminal involvement worse. Therefore action to reduce drug involvement either through law enforcement or treatment will probably reduce offending although it might not reduce the overall number of offenders.
Consequently one single model cannot account for the drug-crime relationship. Rather there are multiple paths that lead to drug use and crime.
Research suggests that drug use and crime involvement have common origins. Factors such as poor social support systems, difficulty in school, membership of deviant peer groups, early contact with government services and a lack of access to economic support systems are common in the backgrounds of both drug users and criminals.
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.
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. 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. We consider the subset which resulted in a conviction or a caution, reprimand or warning i. All sanctioned offences committed by the individual were included, from age 10 the age of criminal liability in England up to the two weeks prior to the drug test. We excluded this two-week period to negate the effect of the specific offence which resulted in the drug test.
NDTMS records information about individuals who seek treatment for psychoactive substance-related problems by National Health Service and third-sector providers Marsden et al. It includes information about the age at which patients first used the drug they sought treatment for.
We linked cases in the analysis cohort to NDTMS records for subjects treated for opioid dependence between 1st April and 31st March NDTMS has national coverage, so every subject who received drug treatment in this period should have a record.
The analysis was conducted on a complete case basis and those with missing age-of-initiation were described see Appendix A in the Supplementary material. Linkage between datasets was based on a minimal identifier initials, date of birth and gender.