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Drug Addiction and Crime: A Complicated Issue

NCJ Number
British Journal of Addiction Volume: 82 Dated: (1987) Pages: 7-9
D N Nurco
Date Published
3 pages
The casual link between narcotic drug use and crime has been documented in a number of studies.
It is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 addicts and that narcotics addicts commit over 50 million crimes per year. The overall cost of drug abuse to the U.S. economy is estimated to be $46.9 billion in 1980. Since 1950, the type of crime committed by addicts has changed from nonviolent, petty theft offenses to more violent crimes involving the use of firearms. Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that narcotics addicts as a group commit a great deal of crime, particularly during periods of active addiction. Three patterns of addict career can be identified: those who maintain a virtually uninterrupted addiction and commit a great deal of crime, spend little time incarcerated, and had little history of criminality prior to the addiction; those who are heavily involved in both addiction and crime, spend little time drug free in the community, and have prior histories of criminality; and those who spend little time addicted in the community but who had active delinquent and criminal careers even prior to addiction. Approaches to controlling drug-related crime have included vigorous law enforcement, restriction of drug production and distribution, and decriminalization. A more promising approach would be to concentrate on the use of a variety of treatment methods under court direction with drug monitoring and close surveillance in a clinical setting. 14 references.