Drugs, Values and Society. Drug Industry and Crime

Subject: Law
Pages: 8
Words: 2209
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD


Through the years, there has been increase in drug abuse and drug related crimes all over the world. It is of great significance to understand the connection between drugs and crime. This link can be sub-divided into categories. Acquisitive crime is when a drug user commits offenses to obtain money for continued use of drugs; or when drugs’ pharmacologic effects contribute to involvement in criminal activities. Second category would be the one, where use of certain drugs can lead to violent behavior and crimes. Examples of such drugs would be amphetamines and alcohol. Depending on circumstances, this may also cause social disorder. Another link between drugs and crime would be the illegal trade of drugs, within countries and also internationally. This is due to corruption in legitimate institutions. (Richard Hammersley, 2008).


The problem of drug abuse needs to be addressed in a systematic fashion. It is indeed not sufficient to fight back drug related crimes merely through enforcement of drug prevention laws, treatments, and rehabilitation. An in-depth understanding of drug-related crimes would enable us to understand that drug abuse is not just a matter of personal choice, rather it concerns the whole society, be it in social terms or economical. When people have a drug-using lifestyle, the likelihood of involvement in illegal activities and exposure to situations that encourage crime increases a lot of drug abuse takes place as a result of social inequalities and complexes among the people. If these inequalities are reduced, people will feel more secure, and hence will stay away from drug abuse. This does not apply to people belonging to a particular class only; rather it applies to every individual of a society where social inequalities are prevalent. (Richard Hammersley, 2008).

Manufacturing, possession and distribution of drugs having potential for abuse are most direct crimes relating to drugs, they are also called drug-defined offenses. Cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and heroin are examples of such drugs. By improving the law enforcement strategies for drug abuse, illicit supply and across-the- border trafficking of drugs should be minimized. This is possible through drug interdiction at airports, highways, railway stations, and etcetera. A patrol officer or a specialized drug interdiction officer can assist in the process. Several innovative and advanced strategies and controls are now being used by interdiction staff in different countries of the world. These also include use of K-9 services. Pharmaceutical diversion is another area of concern in this respect. This occurs when legally produced controlled substances like powerful high-dose medicines, depressants and stimulants are being diverted from their legal use, and are used for unlawful purposes instead. The sale of these drugs is controlled as to make sure that they are readily available whenever needed for legitimate medical use, and to avoid their illegal use. Checks are also kept on physicians, pharmacies and doctors who are authorized to write prescriptions for such drugs in order to follow up on the quantity and use of these drugs. This monitoring system also helps in identifying forgeries of prescriptions and misuse of authority by the physicians. (Operation UNITE, n.d.)

Increasing awareness among the public about harmful effects of drugs can lead to a gradual, but more effective elimination of drug abuse, and thus of crimes relating to it. Different government and non-governmental organizations are working for this purpose. Students are also being educated about and checked for possible drug abuse at schools and colleges. There are different training programs designed for teachers and parents as well, to keep their children away from drug use and educate them about its harmful effects.

According to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) conducted in 1997 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), respondents who were arrested for drunk-driving and possession or sale of drugs in 1996, had also been involved in illicit drug use. They are also said to be 14 times more likely to get arrested for liquor law violations, or drunk-driving; 9 times more likely to be booked on an assault charge; and 16 times more likely of being arrested for theft or larceny. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) conducted in 1998 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) states that 31% of victims could determine that their offender was under influence of drugs or alcohol. This survey questions victims of violent crimes if they could perceive that the offender was under any drug influence.

Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program run by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assesses the drug use among arrestees. Urine tests are done to find out about drug use and then percentage is calculated for positive results out of the total. This data is collected anonymously and voluntarily at the time of arrest in selected cities of United States. The data collected in 1998 from 35 different cities of U.S. showed that positive drug testing percentages ranged from 42.5% in Anchorage, Alaska, to 78.7% in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for male arrestees. For females it started with 33.3% in Laredo, Texas, and went up to 82.1% in New York, New York. Most of the females were arrested for drug possession, illicit sales, or prostitution, whereas male arrestees convicted for drug sales and possession were most likely to get positive test results for drug abuse. Arrestees involved in burglary, robbery and theft of vehicles, females and males both, also had positive test results. Moreover, results showed that ¾ of arrestees who tested positive for opiates also tested positive for some other drug.

The test results for juvenile male arrestees in 13 cities also showed that most of them were involved in illegal drug possession or sales. An overwhelmingly high number of juveniles had positive test results for marijuana, however, overall positive results were less compared to that of adults’. It was also found that juvenile male arrestees who did not go to school were most likely to test positive for drugs, especially for methamphetamine and cocaine. This implies that children and young people going to schools are less vulnerable and likely to be more aware and educated about the hazards of drug abuse.

Illicit drug trafficking is often related to violent crimes for various reasons like rip-offs and conflicts among people involved in illegal drug trade, tendency of being violent, and competition for getting more clients and capturing larger share of the market. The places and locations where illegal street drug trade is carried out are not under effective legal and social controls; therefore, they are more prone to violent situations. Proliferation of lethal weapons in last few years has made the drug violence even more malignant.

Quantifying or measuring the drug crime relationship is a difficult job and must be interpreted very carefully. This is because it is hard to assess the extent to which presence of drugs is relevant in a crime scenario, sometimes interpretations are narrow and other times they deem presence of drugs to be of cursory relevance. Most crimes are caused by a range of factors which could be personal, cultural, economic or situational; hence, even if use of drugs is a cause of the crime, other causes cannot be neglected. Another complication is that of interpretation and credibility of surveys or data collected. The urine analysis conducted to test drug use has its limitations because it can only expose recent drug use. Reports by offenders may also be understand or exaggerated. Therefore, determination of extent and nature of drug influence can only be done with definite information about the crime and the offender. In case of unsatisfactory evidence, it is impossible to measure the drug influence. (ONDCP Factsheet, 2006).

Some people argue, that it is not ‘illegal drugs’ that lead to crimes, but their prohibition. It is believed that countries where coca and opium are grown and where laws are being questioned by internal conflict, systematic impact on crime is felt most acutely. For instance, corruption and terrorism have heightened in countries such as Afghanistan, where a civil strife is going on and large amounts of illegal drugs are being produced and transited.

According to a report published in 2005, prevention of drug abuse can be divided into three levels, namely primary – that would focus on preventing the drug-related crimes from occurring, secondary – that would focus on potential offenders and victims of drug-related crime, and tertiary – that would focus on people charged for drug-related crimes.

For primary measures it is essential to find out why people use illegal drugs. It is believed that people act according to the social circumstances they are in. It is important to understand the connection between high crime rates, drug abuse and distress within a society. Juvenile delinquency rates are probable to be high when there is negative peer pressure or poverty. There are different measures that are undertaken world over to improve the socio-economic situation of people. South mead estate in Bristol is one such example where long-term community development is believed to have stifled lawlessness. In countries like Japan and Scandinavia where drug use is generally not tolerated and are also comparatively better in terms of economic inequality, drug-related crimes are not common. Canada, Australia, France, and Finland are also working on socio-economic development in order to bring down the crime rate. (Alex Stevens, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor, 2005).

Effective measures to halt production and availability of such drugs will not only lower psycho-pharmacological crimes, but also those caused by economic need. However, evidence suggests otherwise. These measures are not cost-effective as it is seen that strict drug laws have encouraged systematic crime, rather than eliminating it. When drug prices are increased, so does the motivation of drug users for acquiring drugs, which often results in violence. Numerous programs have been conducted in Peru, Bolivia, Laos, Columbia, Myanmar and Afghanistan to reduce opium and coca production; however, they have failed to yield desired results as overall production of these drugs has remained same. Such programs incur extensive costs, including the cost of administering them and the social costs. When an opium eradication program was conducted in Shan State, Myanmar, people were not provided with any alternative for earning their bread and butter. There are rare examples of successful results from drug import reduction strategies. During 2000 and 2002 Australian heroin draught, it was seen that crime rate increased and so did the heroin prices. Use of amphetamine also extended, just as it had happened after heroin production was stopped in Thailand. According to anecdotal reports, methamphetamine began to be used widely in California after a cocaine draught. Many heroin dealers were arrested while the British Derbyshire Drug Market project was conducted so as to create shortage in the heroin market. This project also met failure as dealers were very quickly replaced. (Alex Stevens, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor, 2005).

Provision of support and assistance to families and young children is a secondary prevention action, which deals with low income groups of people with high rates of drug use. According to this theory, juvenile delinquency which usually results from strict parenting, aggression, lack of education, ill social skills and impulsive attitude, can be toned down effectively. Many such programs are being carried out in different countries of the world. Head Start program which is funded by the U.S. government is one such example, which was followed by U.K. in the form of Sure Start. Both the programs are working on the development of economically disadvantaged households. Such programs have so far proved to be very effective.

Teenagers are by far the most vulnerable to drug abuse in any society. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that they understand all the aspects of drug abuse and how it can damage their lives and personalities in myriad possible ways. With this realization, different schools and social work organizations in many countries are giving drug prevention education to their youth. Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE) is said to have reached 60% school districts in U.S.A., 480 schools in U.K., and to 56 other countries. (Alex Stevens, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor, 2005).


Criminal organizations include all those organizations which are involved in production and international trade of drugs, those who arrange for distribution of these drugs, and those who work on creating market for these drugs. The whole process involves high profit incentive for these organizations because of cheap production, high demand and supply being illegal. According to an estimate by the United Nations International Drug Control Program, 1997, the increase between prices of heroin and cocaine is about 1,000%, between export and retail. It is also due to such high profit margins that corruption and violence increases.

The number of drug-related arrestees across the globe has been inflating phenomenally in recent years. U.S.A. has experienced the greatest rise, with prison population increasing by six-folds since 1972. Many other Asian, American, European, African and Oceanic countries have also experienced the same. Scandinavia, Austria, India, and Switzerland are the few exceptions where population in the prisons has remained balanced. (Alex Stevens, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor, 2005).


Alex Stevens, Mike Trace and Dave Bewley-Taylor, Reducing Drug Related Crime: An overview of the global evidence, 2005. Web.

Drugs and Crime, 2008, Web.

ONDCP Factsheet, 2006, Web.

Operation UNITE, n.d., 2008. Web.

Richard Hammersley, Drugs and Crime, 2008, Web.

Mark Townsend, Jail ‘not the solution’ to drug crime, 2008, Web.

NIDA Infofacts: Costs to Society, 2008, Web.

UNODC World Report, 2008, Web.