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Causal Links Between Drugs And Crime Essays

Reviewing empirical research analyzing the relationship between drug usage and offense. Undeniably, there is a strong association between illicit drug usage and condemnable activity, which appears to be consistent across much of the empirical literature with respect to the relationship between drug usage and offense. ( Moore, T. et.al 2007, p.369 ) However, the relationship between drug usage and offense is complex and dynamic, frequently associated with entrenched societal and wellness jobs such as unemployment, socio economic inequality, and hapless mental wellness. Furthermore, the complexness of the relationship farther develops with the links being neither simple or additive, nor cosmopolitan across piquing. ( Raskin White & A ; Gorman, 2002 )

Goode argues that drugs and offense are closely related in the public head and suggest presently, that drugs and offense are connected in a really specific manner and whether their connexion bears straight on a specific issue of whether or non belongings offense would worsen under decriminalization of certain illicit substances. ( 1997 ) .

The issue that comes to the bow is that there is sometimes a inclination in the literature, and policy and public argument, to over simplify and over-draw the links between these two phenomena. This is supported in the work of Makkai ( 2002 ) whereby the statement that much of the Australian treatment on illicit drugs and offense ‘is badly defined, simplistic, and missing in grounds ‘ where an premise that there is a causal relationship between drug usage and offense is made without sufficient back uping grounds. ( p. 113 ) Furthermore, Raskin White and Gorman besides supports the position of Makkai saying, policy shapers assume that an of import connexion between drugs and offense exist, nevertheless the precise nature of the connexion remains elusive.

There is clear grounds in literature suggesting and back uping that drug usage and offense tend to be associated or co-existing in the same populations. Within Australian literature this grounds is contained within the surveies of Kevin 1999 ; Loxley 2001 ; Makkai 1999 and Makkai 2001.

Interestingly, when reexamining literature analyzing the drugs and offense link, the organic structure of research refering to offending/drug usage callings and induction into drug usage provide utile penetration into the relationship. Pudney ( 2002 ) ; Best et Al ( 2001a ) argue that the oncoming of condemnable behavior by and large precedes the oncoming of initial and/or regular drug usage. This averment is demonstrated through empirical observation whereby 17 per cent of captives reported illicit drug usage prior to piquing, 29 per cent study that offense and drug usage occurred at the same age, but piquing before the beginning of illicit drug usage was reported at 54 per cent. These consequences that by and large the life-time drug-using/ condemnable calling begins with the oncoming of piquing, so illicit drug usage, with continuing rhythm of regular offending and regular drug usage ( Makkai & A ; Payne 2003a, p10 ) . Furthermore, this bolsters the relationship between drug usage and offense.

The purpose of this paper is to reexamine the literature sing the relationship between drug usage and offense, peculiarly the theoretical theoretical accounts and the empirical grounds environing the three chief theories in order to happen spreads in the research and to place future tendencies and research parametric quantities sing the relationship between drugs and offense. The three chief theories to be examined is the averment that substance usage leads to offense, offense leads to substance usage and that offense and drug usage have common causes.

As stated during the debut the relationship between drugs and offense is dynamic and complex. There are a assortment of ways into and out of the drug piquing link which vary between persons and harmonizing to a scope of factors. For illustration, Scott et al 2001 province the links between drugs and offense can change harmonizing to factors such as age ( p.161 ) , or sex as argued by Mazerolle ( 2008 ) ; Johnson ( 2004 ) ; Haas & A ; Peters ( 2000 ) , or the order of debut as to whether drug usage or offending came foremost ( Farabee et al 2001 ) . Furthermore, harmonizing to Scott et Al 2001, that serious illicit drug usage contributes to continuity in serious offense, and frailty versa, reasoning that offense affects drug usage and drug usage affects offense ( p.270 ) This statement is supported by both Best et Al 2001a, p161 and Welte et Al 2001, p436 who suggest a two manner relationship between drug usage and offending.

Theories refering the relationship between drug usage and offense

Substance usage leads to offense

Goldstein, considered the first to originally develop the theory between the relationship of drugs and offense, suggested three separate accounts of how the nexus occurs. Goldstein asserts that psychopharmacological, economic motive and a systemic theory explain the drugs and offense link. ( 1985 ) The first account and described as the psychopharmacological theory defines, that the short or long term usage of certain drugs produces physical effects which lead to piquing behavior. This theory has been applied to both belongings and violent offense, but it is chiefly associated with violent piquing and attributes acute or chronic poisoning or the effects of drug backdown as lending factors towards condemnable behavior.

This psychopharmacological theory additions support in research conducted by Lo & A ; Stephens ( 2002 ) suggesting that wrongdoers were ( or claimed to be ) intoxicated with illicit drugs at the clip of the offense ( p 125 ) . Further research within Australia besides suggest within Drug Use Monitoring Australia ( DUMA ) data that 34 per centum of constabulary detainees claimed to be under the influence of an illicit drug when they committed the offense, moreover 14 per centum claimed to be under the influence of intoxicant. Further support is provided to Goldstein ‘s initial theory in Indermaur ‘s ( 1995, p 156 ) Western Australian survey of robbery that found 52.8 per cent of wrongdoers reported being under the influence of illicit drugs at the clip of piquing and 5.7 per cent were sing the effects of backdown.

The aim of the Drug Use Careers of Offenders ( DUCO ) undertaking is to further understand the drug usage and condemnable histories of incarcerated wrongdoers and to lend to the empirical grounds on the nexus between drug usage and offense. In the illustration of the DUCO survey, inquiries sing whether the wrongdoer was intoxicated and whether the wrongdoer committed the offense because they were intoxicated were asked. The survey found that 24 per cent of captives reported they were intoxicated with illicit drugs, 17 per cent with both illicit substances and intoxicant, and 21 per cent merely with intoxicant. However, these proportions more than halved when analyzing whether the offenses could be asserted to be causally attributed to poisoning, with 10 per cent for illicit drugs, 8 per cent for both and 9 per cent for intoxicant merely ( Adams et al 2008 ; Makkai & A ; Payne 2003a, p16 ) .

Although research asserts that there is some significance of the psychopharmacological theory in explicating the nexus between drugs and offense, ambivalency surrounds the decision. For illustration, the Australasian Centre for Policing Research ( ACPR, 2001, p15 – 16 ) conclude that it is likely that poisoning by either drugs and/or intoxicant plays a function in the kineticss of the drugs and offense link, but that it should non be overestimated. Additionally, Raskin White & A ; Gorman ( 2000 p.185 ) ; MacCoun et.al ( 2001, p. 5 ) argue that the psychopharmacological theory explains small in footings of the relationship between drugs and offense.

The 2nd theory to explicate the drugs and offense link is termed the ‘economic compulsive ‘ and suggests that offense is commissioned in order to finance a drug wont. Makkai 2002b argues that this theory chiefly relates to belongings offenses, nevertheless may besides associate to violent offense such as robbery where force may be used during the committee of a belongings offense ( p111 – 113 ) . Support for this theory is derived by the research within Australia of Maher et Al whereby high proportions of drug users report commit offense and in peculiar belongings offenses to help in paying for a drug wont ( 2002 ) . These findings besides concurs with Best et al 2001a whose determination suggested that the most typical belongings offense was that of shrinkage ( 48 per cent of respondents ) , followed by burglary ( 28 per cent ) so unarmed street robbery such as bag bits and muggings ( 13 per cent ) . Furthermore, empirical surveies analyzing the drugs and offense link such as Collins 1999 and Nelson et al 2002 asserts the inclination that burglary is the offense associated most with funding drug usage, nevertheless non every bit high as the income derived from wrongdoers involved in drug merchandising. ( Weatherburn et al 2003, p193 ) . Pritchard & A ; Payne cite that the chief grounds for burglary are to back up a drug wont ( 44 per cent of respondents ) , to obtain money or goods ( 42 per cent ) and money was needed as a consequence of unemployment ( 41 per cent ) 2005, p 46.

In decision and although strong grounds has been provided in support of the theory, economic motive can non supply a complete account of the nexus between drugs and offense, nevertheless does lend and explicate why offense accelerates as dependence additions ( ACPR, 2001, p.16 ) . Furthermore, Bennett & A ; Holloway ( 2005 ) ; Raskin White & A ; Gorman ( 2001 ) identifies gaps in the research where there is a demand to separate between different classs of drug users when analyzing the relationship between drugs and offense.

Systemic theory as examined by Goldstein suggest the battle within drug market activities consequences in piquing, that is, drug related offense consequences from negative interactions in the illegal drug market, where it is argued that distribution and usage of illicit drugs are inherently connected to the committee of offense, with peculiar mention to offenses of force ( Raskin White & A ; Gorman 2000, p191 )

Reiss & A ; Roth argues that systemic offense is associated with drug distribution through organizational offense, dealing related offense and 3rd party related offense. Although there is some anecdotal grounds proposing a strong connexion between drugs and offense, nevertheless as Bean ( 2002 ) asserts, research on organized offense outside the United States is limited and states that it does non straight discuss the relationship between organised offense and drugs and, moreover the literature available could be classed as journalistic in nature instead than empirical research. On the other manus, Findlay states without drug trafficking, covering and utilize being illegal, net income would non be assured ( 1999, p.26 ) , which in bend suggest that drug related offense is an artifact of jurisprudence and policy ( McBride et al 2001, p5 ) .

Crime leads to substance usage

The 2nd proposed theory is that wrongdoers are more likely to go illegal drug users. Therefore, persons who are aberrant are more likely to be involved or take societal state of affairss where drug usage condoned or encouraged. Raskin White & A ; Gorman province that this theory may originate when aberrant persons use drugs to self medicate or to supply and pardon to perpetrate pervert or condemnable Acts of the Apostless ( 2000, p174. ) or that income from condemnable Acts of the Apostless supplying extra income enables the wrongdoer to buy drugs, contrasting the old theory of drugs obliging the wrongdoer to perpetrate a offense. In short, both overarching theories receive support and even reenforce each other in the sense that offense may take to drug usage and drug usage may take to more offense.

Crime and drug usage have common causes

The 3rd theory suggests that offense and drug usage are non straight causally related to each other, nevertheless are related due to sharing other common causes in footings of single degree, interpersonal degree, environmental and situational factors. Pudney states that societal, economic and household fortunes appear to be influences on immature people ‘s hazard of going involved in both offense and drug usage ( 2002, p28 )

A scope of hazard factors ( which may increase the likeliness of an offense happening ) and protective factors ( which cut down the impact of an ineluctable negative event ) are described within this theory where Weatherburn et al merely province that were risk factors outweigh protective factors, the greater the likeliness of going in drugs and/or offense ( 2000 P 49 -53 ) and there is considerable overlap and relationship between illicit drug usage and criminalism ( ACPR 2001, p28 ) .

After depicting the drugs and offense association within this literature reappraisal it is possible to reason and place recommendations for farther research. No one person theory can adequately explicate the drugs and offense link in every case, moreover the relationship between drugs and offense is really complex, whereby the decisions researched on this subject vary and depend on which country the research worker examines and interprets the information. Furthermore, consideration to all theories is prudent in order to develop a true appraisal of this relationship.

Illicit drug usage and offense are reciprocally reenforcing where both can predate the other, and be interrelated with a wide scope of other variables, nevertheless there is no needed standards or necessary causal links between the relationship. That is, most drug users do non prosecute in criminalism and there is an absence of grounds proposing that drug usage in and of itself causes criminalism, and that criminalism in and of itself forces people into drug usage. With this said, drugs are of import within the context of force and belongings offense ( MacCoun et al 2001, p2 ) , where the drug utilizing piquing population commit a disproportional sum of offense.

Although it can be said that the drugs and offense link is intimate, farther research is necessary to help in farther shaping and understanding the links, where the methods of disaggregation or analyzing specific countries may turn out good and give greater lucidity such as, the relationship between offense and peculiar sorts of drugs, linking empirical findings to drugs and offense theories, and researching the insouciant connexion between drugs and offense. Finally, an country of involvement to the author to place spreads in the research pertaining to the drugs and offense link is drug usage in prison.

This paper reviewed a figure of surveies in mention to the relationship between drugs and offense in an attempt to exemplify the complexness of the connexion. After analyzing the nexus the paper discussed three theoretical theoretical accounts which endeavour to explicate the relationship ; the psychopharmacological nexus ; the economic-compulsive nexus ; and the systemic nexus. Drug user ‘s dependence on expensive drugs where affordability is missing demonstrates the closest nexus between drugs and offense ; nevertheless even with this illustration the relationship is non automatic due to offense non being an inevitable effect of drug usage. Finally, engagement in offense is besides dependent on economic, societal and cultural contexts, non merely drug usage.

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Recent drug policy in the UK has been shaped by the general presumption that drug addiction is a key contributory factor to rising crime. The literature review demonstrates that whilst empirical evidence clearly supports a link between drugs and crime, the use of drugs is one part of a complex process contributing to criminal behaviour. Furthermore, this analysis demonstrates that the underlying weakness in asserting that drugs cause crime under the economic cause and effect model ignores the root question of causality. This impacts effective policy measures to combat drugs in crime, which is further evidenced by the DTTO measures. It is submitted in this paper that further research is needed to develop and explore concepts of causality in order to truly understand the nature of the link between drugs and crime.


A central theme in recent UK drug policy debate has focused on the widespread notion that drug addiction is a critical causal factor in crime, with considerable concern about the link between drugs and violent crime in the urban drug market (Bennett, T., & Holloway, K., (2005). Indeed, the correlation between drugs and crime has contributed to “an increasingly strong hold on UK drug policy” (Audit Commission 2002). The last Conservative government’s drug strategy outlined in its white paper “Tackling Drugs Together” (1997) the reduction of drug fuelled crime as a key objective shaping policy recommendations going forward. This followed through into Labour Government policy with the introduction of the Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO) in 2000.

From a social policy perspective, an understanding of the relationship between drug abuse and crime is vital due to its resultant impact on both criminal justice and drug policy. Variances in propounded conceptions of the correlation between drugs and crime underlie the polarised debate regarding every aspect of the criminal justice system from treatment, prevention, enforcement, drug legalisation, sentencing policy and strategy development for local policing (Seddon 2000). However, it is submitted that the nature of the drug crime link remains unclear from empirical research available and a further evaluation of criminological theorem is needed before further social policy initiatives are implemented.

Whilst the obvious and short term response from empirical research unequivocally points to a direct link between drug addiction and crime, it “cannot be assumed that the correlation proves causation” (Califano 1997). Furthermore, to simply assert that drugs cause crime ignores the reality that “with little or no funds, addiction that is compulsive beyond the realms that any non-addict can truly comprehend requires feeding” (Califano 1997). Accordingly, the nature of the addiction itself is a significant causal trigger, which arguably predisposes a user to finding the necessary monies through crime to “feed” their habit (Seddon 2000).

However, the trend in empirical research is to often consider the drug crime relationship within stereotypical models arguably limiting the outcome of research to the obvious answer that drugs cause crime. However, it is submitted that this assumption needs to be evaluated to truly understand the “link” between drugs and crime. The broader studies clearly raise the question as to whether it is the drugs that actually cause crime, or whether criminals are attracted to drugs (Bennett, T., & Holloway, K., 2005). The focus of this analysis is to evaluate the complex causal factors within the drug crime relationship and highlight the point that distinctions need to be made between the fact that whilst there is clearly a link between drugs and crime on the one hand, the separate issue of causality between the two on the other, needs to be examined further from a criminological perspective.

The concern regarding links between drug use and crime has become the focus of debate within the drug/crime relationship model, utilised as a basis to justify implementation of political strategies to treat problematic drug use to reduce the effect of the link (Bennett, T., & Holloway, K., (2005)). As stated above, the Government implemented the Drug Testing and Treatment Order (DTTO) in 2000. However, this Order has been superseded by the Drug Rehabilitation Requirement which is attached to a community order in sentencing, and is intended to operate as the “primary criminal justice response to this concern”(Criminal Justice System Online 2005). The new “Rehabilitation Requirement” was introduced in April 2005 and as such, limited information is available about its impact and this dissertation will focus on a discussion of the DTTO as an example of the practical impact in criminal justice of the current understanding of the correlation between drugs and crime.

Indeed in this context, South (2002) proposed two key criminological questions concerning treatment of offenders which are relevant to the drug crime link:

1) What kinds of treatment are most effective in reducing dependence on the illegal drug supply market; and

2) Which treatments are most effective in reducing crimes undertaken to facilitate finances for the acquisition of illicit substances? (2002, p.931).

It is argued that these questions go to the root of efficacy of the criminal justice system for society in terms of crime (South 2002). The response to these criminological theories has fuelled initiatives such as the UK Drugs Strategy (Home Office 2002) which in turn established the DTTO implemented pursuant to provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. It was commented that the nature of the Order was timely in context of research indicating that increased used of Heroin and Cocaine in particular is directly linked to crime (Turnbull 1999, 2000 Gossop et al 2001, Fowler 2002, National Audit Office 2004).

Accordingly, the discussion of the DTTO is relevant to assess whether the current understanding and justifications for the Order “effectively implements crucial aspects of the drug/crime relationship” (Gossop et al., 2001), by assessing criminological theorem, utilising the research methodology format set out in Section 3.

The initial objective of this paper is to amalgamate current appreciation of the link between drug and crime by reviewing the literature and further utilise criminological theory to identify problem areas. Furthermore, in using the literature review as a starting point, I will consider theoretical and methodological issues concerning causality with a discussion of practical examples to further evaluate the nature of the link between crime and drugs, which clearly impacts policy recommendations.

The focus of the literature review will refer to UK and European literature, with a comparative analysis with US perspective.


The most common and prominent feature of research into the drug-crime relationship commences with the initial action of consumption as a starting point. This is in fact evidenced in the UK Misuse of Drugs Act (1971), which prohibits production, supply, preparation and possession of illicit substances. Whilst the legal framework criminalizes the act of consumption and possession, it ignores the reality that a measured consideration of the relationship between drugs and crime extends beyond act of consumption (Yacoubian & Kane 1998). Research into the drug/crime relationship can be traced “throughout history” (Yacoubian & Kane 1998) though the first meaningful consideration is arguably “the research initiatives in America in late 1960s and 1970s” (Yacoubian & Kane 1998). For example, the studies of Chambers and Inciardi considered drug finance support mechanisms for female drug addicts (1971).

The proliferation of research into the drug crime relationship continued in the 1980s culminating in Goldstein (1985) propounding the “economic compulsive” criminological theory for explaining the correlation between drugs and crime. However, it was not until the 1990s that the debate was addressed officially in the UK (Seddon 2000). The political motivations behind a move towards a coherent drug strategy was evidenced in the Conservative Government white paper “Taking Drugs Together” (1997), which acknowledged the importance of the drug/crime relationship in shaping treatment initiatives in sentencing (HMIP 1997). It has been argued that this official focus on the drug crime relationship facilitated implementation of the DTTO. However, the Order itself has been criticised for being politically motivated:

“A political decision had been reached rather than a criminological one” (Bean 2002 79)

Clearly politically motivated initiatives are inherently restricted by focused considerations within the confines of Government strategy and in this context, appear to ignore criminological thinking upon the drug-crime connection, which by its very nature question the efficacy of any policy recommended initiatives. The criminological perspective is clearly more complex than DTTO considerations (Bennett, T., & Holloway, K., (2005) which is further evidenced by the literature review.

Overall, there is a clear consensus in literature that there is a strong correlation between both non-recreational and recreational drug use and crime (Seddon 2000). However the issue of causality has created disagreement as to the scope of the link, leading to the evolution of three central models of the relationship between drugs and crime:

1) drug use leads to crime;

2) crime leads to drug use;

3) both crime and drug use are related to other factors (Seddon 2000).

Furthermore, Brochu and Brunelle (1997) have commented that there are two persistent themes in literature; namely, the correlation of drug use and crime (which comes within the three propounded models in criminological) and the causality of this link.

Welte and Zhang et al argued that “the correlations of high levels of drug use and crime is “one of the most reliable results obtainable in criminology” (2001). The Home Office Drug Strategy (2005) found that this was evident at every stage of the criminal justice system (Home Office: 2005). However, research also highlighted that many people used drugs that didn’t commit crimes and crimes were also committed by a significant proportion who never actually consumed drugs (Barre 1997, Brochu, Cournoyer et al. 1999: Hough 2002; Nationale Drugmonitor 2002; Meijer, Grapendaal et al. 2003).

Focused studies of criminal justice populations have also considered the nature and extent of drug use. This research indicates that a high proportion of offenders have used drugs in a recent time period to the commission of crime. For example, studies in the USA, Australia and the UK have found average rates of between 63% and 69% among arrestees for of positive urine tests (Bennett 2000; McKegany, Connelly et al. 2000; Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program 2002; Fitzgerald and Chilvers 2002). Furthermore, In a survey of registered crimes between 1993 and 1995 in the Netherlands, 15.1% of crimes were found to have been committed by “hard drug” users, 1.6% by users of soft drugs and 75.1% by people who had not used soft drugs (NDM, 2002: Meijer et al, 2003). This further undermines the simple assertion that “drugs cause crime” and highlights the importance of the physiological effect of the component of the particular type of drug, especially when compared with the fact that use of “hard” drugs across the general population was found to be between 0.5 to 1% (NDM ,2002: Meijer et al, 2003).

Prison studies of the developed world have also demonstrated a trend of higher rates of drug use among sample offenders contrasted with percentages for the general population. For example, in 2001, 27% of the Italian prison population were labelled as drug dependent (Ministero della Giustzia 2001). Furthermore, 29 per cent of Swiss prisoners were found to be regular users of Heroin or Cocaine in 1993, compared to use amongst the general population of equivalent poly-drugs at 0.5% (Koller 1997). Additionally, between a third and half of prisoners in Canada and France were also estimated to be drug dependant (Brochu and Guyon 1994, Facy, Chevy et al, 1997; Jean 1997). Whilst the percentage proportions are clearly variable between prisons and jurisdictions, there is a general consensus in studies across Europe indicating that prisoners have a much higher rate of drug use compared with figures for the general population (EMCDDA 2002). Moreover, other comparative studies of criminal justice populations in the UK and USA demonstrated that a significant proportion of those on probation are also drug users compared to estimates of the general population (Mumola Bonczar 1998: Hearnden 2000).

The studies of drug treatment populations therefore appear to confirm the correlation between dependant drug use and heightened criminal activity (Anglin & Speckart 1988; Nurco, Hanlon et al. 1991; Bell, Hall et al. 1992; Brecht, Anglin et al, 1993; Laflamme-Cusson, Guyon et al, 1994). Furthermore, the pattern towards increased criminal activity appears to be dependant on different types of drug use, which in turn shapes different patterns of crime. These varying patterns have led to suggestions that Heroin is linked more to property crimes, while violence is more frequently associated with Cocaine and Amphetamine (McBride and McCoy 1993). Conversely, the consumption of “soft drugs” such as cannabis and marijuana appears to be rarely linked to other criminal activity and increased criminal behaviour (McBride and McCoy 1993).

Despite the apparent statistical link between drug use (particularly in context of poly-drug use) and criminal activity, the debate regarding the “nature of the link between drugs and crime” continues and remains unresolved (Seddon 2000). Many explanations have been propounded including the assertion that dependant drug users commit crime to actually fund their habit (Ball, Rosen et al. 1981; Goldstein 1985; Parker and Newcombe 1987; Parker and Bottomley 1996). This appears to be further supported by official measures implemented under German law, which even has a separate category in its criminal justice framework targeted at “direct crimes in the pursuit of drug addiction” (Bundeskriminalamt 2001). Alternatively, drug use may also lead to “changes in the brain that make people more likely to commit crimes” (Goldstein 1985; Amen, Yantis et al. 1997; Lavine 1997; Sinha and Easton 1999, Snenghi and Montisci 2000). Furthermore, the prohibition of drug consumption inherently encourages the creation of an illegal market that is regulated by violence (Zahn 1980; Goldstein 1985; Stuntz 1998; Resignato 2000) and crime provides an income that enables frequent use of drugs, which in turn exposes users to direct contact with a “deviant subculture which involves crime” (Newcomb, Galaif et al 2001); Another variable propounded is that drug use and crime are common elements of an individual “choice” to follow a deviant career (Kruezer, Harrosn)

Goldstein (1985) further developed the dependency theory by suggesting three explanations of the drug/crime relationship headed as “psychopharmacological”, “economic-compulsive” and “systemic”. These explanations vary according to the type of crimes that are connected to use. For example, the three theories cover illicit drug use and other substance abuse such as alcohol. Goldstein’s Psychopharmacological explanations focus on violent behaviour as being directly linked to the use of drugs and subsequently with criminal activity. Systemic explanations focus on “drug markets and distribution of drugs via networks in line with the notion of drugs facilitating a “deviant subculture” leading to crime” (Goldstein 1985). As such, these explanations are vital in highlighting the complexity in the drug crime relationship as the type of drug abuse is clearly central to the variances in criminal behaviour and criminal activity covered by the criminal justice system (Seddon 2000).

Goldstein’s economic compulsive theory of the correlative link between drugs and crime is the most common causal explanation cited by researchers and the media to justify the proposition that “drugs cause crime” (Bean 2004). The foundation of the theory is rooted in the premise that drug users commit crimes to fund their habits. Goldstein observes that because empirical research indicates the link between Heroin and Cocaine as a common indicator in the frequency of compulsive use and criminal activity, their high financial cost render this poly-drug abuse the most relevant form of drug use in connection with the “economic necessity” model propounded as the explanation for the drug crime link (Goldstein 1985).

The “economic necessity” explanation asserts that the pharmacological properties of illegal drugs create an uncontrollable need in users which, in the absence of any significant legitimate outcome, compels users to commit crime to finance their addiction. Furthermore, the causality component of this model is “an essentially mechanical process whereby one set of circumstances inevitably leads to (or causes) another” (Seddon 2000). The strength of empirical support for this model is evidenced by the research of Parker and colleagues (Parker and Newcombe, 1987, Parker et al., Parker and Bottomley 1996), which concentrates on Heroin use and more recently crack-cocaine use.

The research of Parker et al (1987) led to conclusions that there were two different groups of user offenders; namely, those with a prior criminal record whose track record of offending increased after drug use and those without a record prior to drug use whose subsequent addiction led to heightened criminal behaviour, particularly in property crime. However as Hammersely et al. note (1987), it is not entirely conclusive that these two groups discussed by Parker are actually different as the foundation utilised to determine prior criminality is convictions, which only represents a small proportion of actual offences committed (Hammersley et al 1987).

Accordingly, it could alternatively be suggested that the significant majority of user-offenders were in fact involved in property crime before their use of heroin or crack cocaine (and indeed other research e.g. Burr 1987, Edmunds et al 1998 has found this to be the case). As such, the findings that their criminal activity rapidly increased when they became drug dependent can also be attributed to reasons other than the drug-causes-crime theory and ignores wider socio-economic factors.

For example, as other studies have established, the actual levels of drug use are often determined week to week by the perceived “success” in crime (and the resulting money available from the successful execution of the crime) rather than the addiction creating physical need (Parker 1996: Grapendaal, 1992)). As such, this suggests that periods of criminal success are accompanied by “an extravagant lifestyle in which heightened drug consumption is one component and not the determinant causal factor for increase in criminal behaviour” (Grapendaal 1992). This is further supported by Hammersley’s assertions that “day to day, crime was a better explanation of drug use, than drug use was of crime” (1989 p.1040).

The literature review indicates that the implication of the drug causes crime model is that legalisation of drugs or treatment schemes involving the giving of drugs as part of rehabilitation would remove the need to resort to crime to fund drug use. However, it is suggested that this approach ignores the findings in Hammersley’s (1987) study and several other studies which indicate through empirical study that “although prescribing heroin or methadone can reduce criminal activity, it does not stop it altogether (Bennett and Wright 1986, Jarvis and Parker 1990 Parker and Kirby 1996).

Indeed, some studies even suggest that the actual impact of such treatment initiatives on practical reduction of crime is negligible and go as far as suggesting that it has no effect on reduction of crime at all (Burr 1987). For example, Burr (1987) found in study samples that neither methadone maintenance nor abstaining from Heroin (whether temporarily or permanently) actually resulted in people ceasing criminal activity. Additionally, an early study by Weipert (1979) demonstrated that this form of “maintenance” was not conclusive in supporting any real impact on reduction in criminal activity. Indeed, Gossop (1998) observes that the empirical research on treatment or rehabilitation solely demonstrates a reduction in crime (the significance of which is questionable) as opposed to “complete cessation” (Gossop 1998).

However, it has been commented that a major analytical challenge facing the efficacy of such studies of different treatment models is the fact that the research samples often comprise “well motivated people who have reached a stage in their drug using career where they want to “slow-down” (Jarvis and Parker 1990). Accordingly, it is clearly problematic to reliably attribute any resulting crime reduction solely to the treatment initiative in light of the inherent motivation of the sample (Jarvis and Parker 1990).

Furthermore, it has been argued that “offenders may exaggerate drug use in order to escape responsibility for acts and obtain a lighter sentence for mitigating circumstances” (Richard and Senon 1997). Additionally, the literature demonstrates a pattern of drug users often entering treatment at most serious points in their criminal careers (McGlothlin, Anglin et al.1977). As such, offenders and drug users in treatment are likely to be “those who are most heavily involved in drugs and crime” (Seddon 2000). Therefore studies of this group of population “may overestimate the correlation of drug use and crime” (Seddon 2000). Furthermore, other studies demonstrates that crime often begins before drug use, which contradicts the theory that drugs cause crime and demonstrates a reversal of the link between the two.

Notwithstanding this consistent problem of the “motivated sample”, the results of the studies nevertheless point to a trend that the treatment modalities merely reduce the level of crime as opposed to completely ceasing criminal activities, which again undermines the drugs cause crime model. As such, Grapendaal (1995) asserts that this model is “at best only a partial explanation of the relationship” (Grapendaal 1995). For example, Grapendaal’s study on heroin addicts in Amsterdam indicated that methadone prescribing systems formed only one component of the broader context of drug related crime and as such could only ever have a limited effect in reducing criminal activity.

Furthermore, it has been propounded the weakness in this criminological model begs the question as to sources of income and financing of expensive drug habits (Gossop 1998). The body of UK and international literature on income sources for heroin users indicate that they depend on various methods of raising money to fund their habit, of which crime is only a small part (Hammersley 1989, Parker and Bottomley 1996, Bennett 1998, dorn et al 1994). Accordingly, “the drug-causes-crime model is not wholly supported by empirical research” (Seddon 2000). Furthermore, Seddon suggests that in considering this model’s assumptions about causality, “it is possible to understand more clearly why it is flawed at a theoretical level” (Seddon 2000). Seddon further argues that the model is derived from “a static deterministic conception of human action that a particular combination of factors (drug addiction plus low legitimate income) is held to lead inevitably to a certain outcome (acquisitive crime to fund addiction)”. However, as Young points out (1992), this type of causal model fails to address the complexities of how “objective conditions are interpreted through the specific subcultures of groups” (Young 1992 p.34). Accordingly, it is dogmatic and restrictively mechanical, based on a “retreatist" model of drug use, “drawn from the sociology of Merton (1957)” (Young 1992).

Therefore, in the context of the current debate on the correlation between drugs and crime debate, the relevance of this model has been refuted empirically (Seddon 2000). For example, the early work of Preble and Casey (1969) is cited in support of this, where their report highlighted as an example that the lifestyle of the New York street addict, “far from being passive and retreatist, was in fact better described as active and resourceful” (Seddon 2000). Furthermore, subsequent British research elucidating this argument confirmed Preble and Casey’s assertions in the 1980s (Auld et al. 1984).

This can also be seen with regard to use of Heroin which is arguably the most studied drug regarding acquisitive crime (Bean 2004). As such, the British Crime Survey findings in 2005/06 focused on Heroin in its research, hardly comparing other drug use in the UK. The survey findings demonstrated that Heroin and Methadone in 2007 use stood at 0.1% for 16-59 year olds compared with 8.7 per cent for cannabis. Furthermore, the estimates revealed a significant gap between some 2,775,000 Cannabis users, compared to 39,000 Heroin users (Roe & Mann 2006).

Whilst overtly demonstrating a clear correlative link between drug use and levels of crime, the survey arguably ignores a multitude of factors. Firstly, Heroin and Cocaine “incurs the highest financial cost to users, and contains considerable physiological addictive properties, compared with little research to suggest that other illicit substances contain these properties” (Bennett & Holloway 2005). Secondly, research also suggests that these poly drugs are linked more broadly with other complex social problems such as poverty, family breakdown and homelessness (Howard League 2000). As such, it has been suggested that:

“There is no persuasive evidence of any causal linkage between drug use and property crime for the vast majority” (Hough et al 2000). As such the government’s focus on heroin and cocaine is flawed” (Hough et al 2000).

Considered further, Bennett (1998) reported on the NEW ADAM development programme, carried out by Cambridge University (1998) in which 879 arrestees were interviewed and urine tested for illicit drug use. Although not intended to operate as a review of the drug-rime relationship in England and Wales, the study resulted in some insightful observations. The results concluded that almost half of all arrestees reported a link between drug use and their criminal activity (Bennett 1998). Holloway & Bennett (2004) further considered the results of subsequent reproductions of this programme and found that in 2001 for example, percentage supporting the link between drug use and criminal activity had risen from 50% in 1998 to 54% (Holloway & Bennett 2004). Additionally, the 2001 survey results demonstrated that 71% of the interviewees had admitted to using heroin and cocaine in the same period as having committed an acquisitive crime (Holloway & Bennett 2004).

The report also found that clients who had entered treatment for Heroin use, and who had failed to resist use, “were ten times more likely to commit other forms of crime, predominantly of an acquisitive nature” (Holloway & Bennett 2004). It has been argued that these findings support a link between drugs and acquisitive crime particularly in context of heroin and cocaine use. As such, the Home Office response was to assert that:

“The links between drug use and crime are clearly established. In fact, around three-quarters of crack and heroin users claim they commit crime to feed their habit. It is our priority to break this damaging claim.” (Home Office, 2006).

However, this “self survey data” has been criticised on grounds of questionable reliability of offender responses (Gould 1974) linking to the problematic nature of the “motivated interviewee”. For example, Gould comments that offenders often exaggerate the seriousness of their drug dependency, which is motivated by variable factors. Conversely, some samples may downplay their problem whilst undergoing treatment. Accordingly, “the reality of the extent of drug use and the subsequent acquisitive crime cannot be easily identified via self-survey” (Walton 2007). Therefore, it has been propounded that the actual extent of the drug link to crime may be unrealistic (Walton 20070. Moreover, the Home Office’s use of statistical data to justify its policy decisions regarding drug related response arguably supports the economic compulsive theory by implication as the explanation for the correlation between drugs and crime. Fowler comments on the Home Office approach and asserts that “There is now a common assumption that problematic drug misuse is at the root of much crime” (Fowler, 2003: 31).

However, other commentators argue that this “assumption” is inherently flawed, as other empirical research clearly demonstrates that illicit drug use is linked other forms of crime and that as such, the connection between the multifarious factors are complex, which undermines the veracity of Fowler’s statement.

The reverse model is alternatively supported by numerous studies that have found criminality of the samples actually pre-date the subsequent drug addiction (Mott and Taylor 1974, Home Office, 1985; Bean and Wilkinson, 1988; Auld et al 1986, Burr 1987, Parker and Newcombe, 1987 Parker and Bottomley 1996, Matthews and Trickey 1996). This has led some researchers to suggest that it is the actual involvement in crime which leads to drug use, directly contradicting the “drug causes crime” model.

For example, Auld (1986) argued that mass unemployment and low state benefits left a disaffected youth unable to satisfy their basic humanitarian needs, thereby creating an environment ripe for petty crime to secure “necessary funds” (Auld 1986). As such, it was this environment which led to direct contact with the machinations of the drug market.

Burr (1987) argued that in the South London area that was the focus of her study, it was the existing crime culture dominating the local populace which predisposed a vulnerable youth to heroin use in particular to finance their habits. This pre-existence of established networks for “fencing stolen goods” led to increased heroin addiction and as such, “the deviant value system made thieving acceptable behaviour and ….use of heroin was an extension rather than a cause of their delinquent behaviour” (1987 Burr, p.350).

These two differing criminological models provide “corrective viewpoints to conventional view of drug addiction causing crime” (Seddon 2000). Auld et al. focus on the importance of appreciating the socio-economic context whilst Burr focuses on “socio-cultural and sub-cultural” elements (Seddon 2000). Their differing strengths are rooted in adopting a contextual approach which “eschews medical or monocausal explanations” (Seddon 2000). However, it is commented that they are not without their limitations.

Firstly, as discussed above there is evidence that a significant proportion of offenders are not actually involved in crime prior to drug use (Parker and Newcombe 1987, Bean and Wilkinson 1988) which is not accounted for in either Auld or Burr’s assertions. However, this criticism in itself is arguably flawed as the majority of studies rely on conviction records “which only pick up a fraction of actual offences it is difficult to assess the size of this group” (Hammersley 1989 p1032). Secondly, it has been commented that not all individuals living in the socio-economic environment reported by Auld and Burr necessarily become involved in drug abuse and crime and as such, the actual process by which these socio-economic factors explain the drug crime link remains unclear.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to ignore the fact that both models are linked to the “method in which causality is conceptualised” (Seddon 2000). As such, “the mechanical nature of their analyses highlights the need for a better understanding of causality” (Seddon 2000).

The third model propounded is arguably the least developed and has yet to be refined into a coherent framework (Seddon 2000). In essence, this model “rejects deterministic explanations of the drug crime link and instead holds that the two are related either to a single third variable or to a complex set of factors” (Seddon 2000). Edmunds et al 1998) found in its research on arrest referral schemes that 92 per cent of their samples had been first arrested long before their drug addiction became an issue. The research further demonstrated that when the level of drug use increased, the resultant level in criminal activity significantly increased. On this basis, they proposed the following hypothesis regarding the correlation between drugs and crime:

“It makes sense to conceptualise causal links as dynamic or interactive. Criminal and drug using careers often develop in parallel; stated simply, acquisitive crime provides people with enough cash to develop a drug habit, and the drug habit locks them into acquisitive crime” (1998 p.10)

However, despite this attempt to address the ambiguity and inconsistencies created by the other two models, it is argued that there are other hypotheses “which could also explain the empirical findings” (Seddon 2000). For example, the link between increased levels of drug use and crime could be attributed to the fact that “success” in crime execution provides necessary monies to fund the drug use. These parallels between developments of “drug careers” might actually suggest that both are in fact “symptoms of broader delinquent behaviour which is caused by other factors (such as family and employment)” (Seddon 2000). On this premise, Seddon argues that it is necessary to further develop the causal links between drugs and crime to “move beyond generating new but unproven hypotheses” (Seddon 2000).

Another example of the evolving third model is a study by Klee and Morris (1994) which compared the criminal behaviour of heroin and amphetamine injectors. It was found that whilst both had had similar rates of offending, the amphetamine user’s weekly expenditure on drugs was significantly lower suggesting that the motivational factor for criminal activity was actually non-economic. These results led Klee and Morris to speculate that it could be the same thrill associated with the use of stimulants that attracts the users to similar sensations when committing crime. They further argue that the empirical research on the economic model therefore fails to adequately address the effects of different drugs and their associated lifestyles on criminal behaviour (1994).

The work of Hammersley is arguably the most developed version of the third model (Seddon 2000). It doesn’t solely focus on heroin but also looks at users of other drugs including cannabis and alcohol. Moreover, the research rejects “deterministic models and suggests that there is a complex interactive relationship between drug use and crime which is influenced by a range of “psychosocial and cultural mechanisms” (Hammersley 1989 p.1041). This study further argues that it would be more efficient to consider both behavioural patterns as symptoms of delinquency rooted in societal and personal patterns (Hammersley 1989). Furthermore, the multifarious patterns and combinations of polydrug also underlie the relationship between drugs and crime, which links to the findings of the study by Klee and Morris (1994).

Although undeveloped, the third model goes further to develop an explanatory hypothesis which can be reconciled with the available empirical evidence (Seddon 2000). Nevertheless the parameters of its theoretical and conceptual justifications have not been defined and Hammersley et al suggest a potential method for further development of this model (1989). Part of Hammersley’s rationale for the third model is rooted in the premise that drug abuse and criminal activity is viewed as being shaped by the broader socio-economic context of subcultures and lifestyle, which in further influenced by individual specific factors such as drug preference and variance in the physiological impact of the particular drug on an individual’s behaviour. The incorporation of a social scientific approach is utilised as an explanatory tool to implement a cohesive proponent incorporating macro and micro explanations of the drug crime link.


In considering a coherent and measured approach to the subject title which covered a broad range of different sources relating to the topic, it was vital to adopt and implement a structured and multiple stage strategy, which was utilised to produce the information needed and put together in the literature review. This was in turn used as a starting point to formulate and develop an in depth analysis of the complex relationship between drugs and crime.

The first stage was to identify the topic and clarify the parameters of the research question. The topic title requires a consideration of the question whether there is a link between drugs and crime, which covers a broad range of empirical research. Furthermore, the research available clearly points to a link between drugs and crime. Accordingly, the research strategy was rephrased to consider the various models propounded to explain the link between drugs and crime and further consider the DTTO as a practical example of social policy understanding of criminological theorem. The link between these various elements was vital in order to evaluate and formulate ideas going forward within the drug/crime relationship debate.

The second stage was to undertake preliminary background research, utilising the following primary sources:

1) References cited in the Bibliography;

2) Official government studies and policy documents in order to further identify pertinent areas and some key terms, which enabled the broad context of the research as part of the main literature review. In particular, reference was made to the studies and recommendations in the official following reports:

a) Home Office (1997). Drug Treatment and Testing Order: Background and Issues

for Consultation: London: Home Office;

b) Home Office (2005). Drug Strategy London: Home Office;

c) Home Office (2006). Drug Related Crime: London: Home Office; and

d) McSweeney, T., Hough and Turnbull, P. (20020. “Appendix 2: Review of the

research evidence of drug treatment in a criminal justice context”. London:

Criminal Policy Research Unit.

The preliminary research stage also involved undertaking use of spider diagrams to consider the relationship between the three criminological models of the drug crime relationship and mind mapping in order to develop areas of research which may be followed going forward:

This further process led to further mind mapping with regard to the economic concepts underlying the link between drugs and crime. For example, Diagram 2 below demonstrates the interdependency of various economic concepts, which support the assertions in the literature review that the nature of the local drugs market fuels the economic necessity model justifying the drugs/crime link:

The third stage formed the foundation for the literature review, which involved identification of relevant areas of research that had been put into practice such as the Gossop review of the NTORS study (2001) and the Home Office reports into the background to drug strategy and updates on development in drug strategy implementation. This involved the use of library cataloguing in order to identify appropriate books and media. This further included the use of established research methodology tools such as OPAC catalogues where all books and other media, as listed using the Dewey decimal classification system (Bell 2005).

Furthermore where sources were found, I researched the bibliography or the references list to evaluate the literature that had been utilised in the preparation and searched backwards to ascertain more useful and relevant resources. In particular, the use of periodicals, academic abstract services and indexes also assisted in further pinpointing research papers as well as up to date or detailed reports which were not found in academic books on the subject. For example, the Oxford University Abstracts service (www.oxfordabstracts.com) enables cost effective, subject specific abstract and paper management, which is utilised by academic institutions, societies, associations and professional conference organisers worldwide.

As part of the preliminary research phase, the use of Internet data services such as INFOTRAC was particularly useful (for the comparative analysis with US data) as the system includes online catalogues of articles that can be searched by subject or key word.

The research available demonstrated various theories propounded to explain the correlation between drugs and crime. Accordingly, in context of research methodology, the grounded theory model was adopted, which rather “than seeking to prove a hypothesis looks to determine the facts and allow the theory to emerge from the facts” (Bryman 2001).

In this model of data evaluation and research methodology, the approach “dictates that theory should emerge from the data,” (Bryman 2001, Chamberlain 1995). As such, the model implies that the theory propounded must be grounded in the empirical data regarding the drug crime relationship. Furthermore the grounded theory approach is qualitative in utilising a “systematic set of procedures to develop an inductively derived grounded theory about phenomenon” (Strauss and Corbin 1998: 24).

The qualitative approach was fundamental in analysing the data in order to provide an explanation of the variances in theories, trends and further to aid understanding of the contextual relationship of the empirical data and the drug crime correlation (Chamberlain 1995). This was particularly important in supporting the assertion that whilst there is a clearly a link between drugs and crime, the causality of that link needs to be addressed in research.

Firstly, this involved a comparison of the results found in various reports in Europe, USA and Australia studying the link between drug use and the proximity to the commission of the offence in criminal justice populations between 1993 and 2005 prior to the implementation of the DTTO as undertaken by Bennett (2000), Connelly et al. (2000) the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (2002) and Fitzgerald and Chilvers (2002).

This data, which unequivocally confirmed a link between drugs and crime, was then contrasted with the results of studies of use of “hard drugs” and “soft drugs” in the same territory over the same time period, including data in studies of Meijer (2003), Ministero della Giustzia (2001), Koller (1997) and Facy, Chevy et al. (1997) EMCDDA (2002) and Hearnden (2000).

This data was then further compared with studies regarding different types of drug use, utilising the results of Angling and Speckhart; Nurco (1988), Hanlon et al. (1991) Bell, Hall et al.(1992), Brecht, Anglin et al, (1993), Laflamme-Cusson, Guyon et al, (1994) and Bermark (2003).

This data was then compared with post-DTTO research into the link between drugs and crime with particular reference to the findings of the British Crime Survey 2005/06, which again highlighted the variances in crime according to the type of drug use particularly with Heroin use.

The statistical data was then considered in context of reports of interviews with criminal justice populations under the NEW ADAM development programme, which was reported on by Holloway & Bennett (2004) between 1998 and 2004. This scrutiny was further undertaken by considering wider studies of drug behaviour such as Grapendaal (1995) whose study on heroin addicts in Amsterdam indicated that the drug abuse was only one component of a broader context of drug related crime.

As research outside the parameters of the economic model is limited, it was further important to consider Grapendaal’s comments in context of Gould’s reports as early as 1974, which criticised “motivational interviewing” and the efficacy of focused criminal justice studies as being conclusive on the link between drugs and crime. This was further compared with Walton’s report in 2007, which criticised the official Home Office approach for being intrinsically dogmatic in relying on presumptions of the drug crime correlation without further considerations as to causality.

Strauss and Corbin highlighted the main tenets of the grounded theory approach to research (Strauss and Corbin 1998). Firstly, the results discussed should fit the phenomena identified and should be the provision of generality (Strauss 1998), which was demonstrated by reference to the reports of between 1993 and 2005 prior to the implementation of the DTTO as undertaken by Bennett (2000), Connelly et al. (2000) the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (2002) and Fitzgerald and Chilvers (2002) .

This is vital as Strauss points out that assumptions that data obtained is conclusive prevents broader contextual evaluation which was vital in demonstrating the wider socio-economic factors linking drugs and crime (1998) as further highlighted by the observations in Walton’s report (20070. Accordingly, the interpretation of data needs to be “transferable to other scenarios and uses and therefore the theory needs to be abstract as well as extensive” (Strauss 1998), which was evidenced by the studies demonstrating variances in criminal behaviour according to the type of drug use.

Furthermore, the data analysis in context of propounded theory should grant “control”, outlining the parameters of its applicability, recognising its abilities and limitations in terms of other applications (Chamberlain 1995). This can then be utilised as a foundation to either prove or disprove existing theories or alternatively propose new theory (Chamberlain 1995). Indeed the scrutiny of the empirical data in context of reports of Gould (1974), Grapendaal (1995), Holloway & Bennett (2004) and Walton (2007), clearly suggest that the economic model needs to be reconsidered in light of the inherent limitations of motivational interviewing.

Three methods of data analysis took place in relation to data sampling and review (Strauss and Corbin 1998). These methods were open coding, axial coding and selective coding (Strauss and Corbin., 1998). Open coding is the initial stage where there will be categorisation of the data by breaking it down (Strauss and Corbin., 1998). This included the categorisation of the data into the following:

1) data demonstrating a link between drugs and crime;

2) data distinguishing between the types of drug abuse, including “soft” and “hard drugs”; and

3) data relating to other relevant factors towards causality in the drug/crime correlation.

Axial Coding is where there is dissemination into categories that appear to be relevant (Strauss 1998) and Selective coding is where the central theme of category is identified, which ties the other information and categories together (Strauss and Corbin 1998). As Strauss and Corbin assert, this method of collection of data is further guided by “theoretical sampling” which means that sampling should be based upon the most appropriate constructs (1995).

In the latter stages of research, I considered adaptation of the methods by relational and variation sampling, which was used to identify information and data that was useful to validate and enhance existing data. This aided understanding of the relationship between the data in context of the theory and further outlined “any inherent limitations of acceptability for data interpretation” (Chamberlain 1995).

The final stage involved “selected sampling” or purposeful data collection from specific samples of the reports listed above in the initial stages of research and specific documents relating to the DTTO implementation as this was the result of the prior empirical conclusions of the correlation between drugs and crime. This was then utilised as a foundation to collaborate theories and support initial theory formulations within the core category that was identified as well as to add information to the areas where there was little data or further elucidation was required (Strauss 1998).

Within this there were further two important processes, involving formulation and posing questions and comparisons in context of empirical data available. The questions, answers and comparative phase further led to the development of theories or hypothesis as opposed to the traditional hypothesis model, which is in line with Dick’s model of grounded theory:

1) Data Collection;

2) Note taking;

3) Coding

4) Sorting; and

5) Writing.

(Dick 2000)

Furthermore, the comparative studies of data samples in the afore mentioned studies and official Home Office Reports of offenders, ex-offenders and the general population were vital in assessing the drug crime relationship.


The review of literature unequivocally points to a link between drugs and crime however there is clearly a divergence in theories regarding causality leading to a polarised debate of the relationship. Whilst a significant proportion of the literature demonstrates a bias towards the economic necessity model that drugs cause crime, further studies suggest that a fundamental weakness of this empirical research is the “failure to address the issue of causality adequately, relying on unidirectional mechanistic “cause-and-effect” models” (Seddon 2000).

It is further submitted that the complexities of the drug crime link do not conclusively support the economic necessity model and therefore it is vital to consider the drug crime link “in context of inter relation of a range of factors operating at different levels as part of a set of complex processes” (Seddon 2000). Failure to consider the wider causal triggers and machinations of the relationship will inherently limit the efficacy of policy initiatives implemented to reduce crime perceived to be linked to drug abuse. Accordingly, future research should focus on developing a further understanding of causality particularly in relation to poly-drug use and wider socio-economic factors and sub-cultures.

The common justification utilised to undermine the economic necessity model is the results obtained from prison population interviewing. In addition to questions into motivations behind answers given by the relevant samples of these studies, the issue of contention was to whether these crimes would have occurred without an addiction. The statistics appear to suggest that they would not. For example prior to implementation of the DTTO, the Home Office Survey demonstrated that addicts spent an average of £400 a week on drugs with a very small proportion of use funded by legal money (Jones 1998).

Whilst these statistics suggest that the crimes would not have been committed without the prior drug consumption, reliance on this as support for the economic compulsive model again ignores the reality that often the crime is undertaken to finance an addiction. Accordingly, this would suggest that there would be no crime without addiction (Seddon 2000). However, it is the addiction as opposed to the actual effect of drugs on criminal behaviour which motivates the criminal act. Furthermore, the addiction itself is part of a complex process of various socio-economic factors leading to drug use (Burr 1987). For example, in a socio-economic environment predisposing the vulnerable user to a “deviant subculture”, Burr observes that drug dealer exploitation of such a market in offering substances at low economic cost facilitates addiction, leading to vicious cycle (1987).

Furthermore, the economic compulsive model fails to address the socio-economic reasons behind regular use of prescription drugs and anti-depressants outside the realm of stereotypical models of heroin and cocaine use. The use of such prescription drugs are also “indicators of individuals unable to cope with their current circumstances for a variety of reasons” (Seddon 2000) as opposed to any assumption of a prevalent local culture of crime exposing individuals to drug use. For example the studies leading to the implementation of the DTTO found white unemployed single males particularly susceptible to prescription drug addiction (Home Office 1997).

It can be argued that the drugs are intrinsically linked to crime by their very nature of being illegal (Spillane 1997). It can also be argued that the psychopharmacological influence of drug abuse impairs an individual’s rationalisation ability, resulting in abnormal behaviour, which wouldn’t have been undertaken otherwise (Spillane 1997). This would therefore indicate that the link between drugs and crime is the abnormal behaviour created by the properties of drugs as opposed to drugs exploiting or creating any element of criminality in the individual’s mind (Spillane 1997). As such, this again points to the nature of the individual’s addiction and the reasons for the addiction which are inherently complex and impossible to fit to empirical research asserting that drugs cause crime (Seddon 2000)

As such, studies of the causation factor in addiction would appear to support arguments that treatment and rehabilitation of the addiction itself as opposed to imprisonment should be adopted for offenders influenced by drug abuse. Indeed, it has been propounded that failure to do so “begs the question as to whether this is failing the state’s duty to protect the public” (Califano 1997). For example, a study in the UK on treatment of existing drug addicts monitored 1,100 people (heroin addicts) on a drug treatment programme monitoring progress for three months. Two years later, there was an improvement in drug use and criminal activity had reduced by more than 50%, however it did not lead to complete cessation (Holloway & Bennett 2005).

Therefore it is further submitted that whilst the drugs may lead to the crime in the short term, the causality of the correlation between drugs and crime is often rooted in the social and economic problems leading to drug addiction, which must be developed in criminological research in this area prior to any further policy initiatives. This assertion ultimately propounds that it is the nature of the addiction and the resulting behaviour that leads to crime and not the drugs themselves and “If society continues to only treat the symptoms and not the root cause the problems will continue” (Brochu and Brunelle., 1997).

Brochu and Brunelle attempt to integrate and develop several of these arguments regarding the nature of addiction by evaluating drug use and crime in the context of an individual’s life course (not just at one moment), which is vital “in context of meanings that each person attaches to their own actions in circumstances they face” (Seddon 2000) and arguably goes further towards a meaningful understanding of socio-economic triggers and eschews flawed assumptions regarding social background and environment without credible empirical support (Brochu and Brunelle 1997). A different approach is propounded by Deitch and his colleagues, who refer to addiction and crime as “a co-occurring disorder” (Deitch, Koutsenok et al. 2000) suggesting that psychiatry and not sociology will lead to an explanation, however this model of explaining the drug crime relationship remains to be developed.

Whilst welcome in moving away from the inherent restrictions of the economic compulsive model, these alternatives still ignore the reality that different types of crimes may have different explanations for different individuals (Shaffer, Nurco et al. 1984, Germain and Le Blanc 1996). Furthermore, different types of crimes will be influenced by different types of drugs, which are not accounted for by current empirical research due to its focus on poly-drug abuse. As such, it is certain that “there will never be one accepted theory of the drugs/crime link” (Lurigio and Schwartz). Indeed, the literature review clearly supports Lurigio and Schwartz’s assertions that “little support can be found for a single specific and direct causal connection” (1999).

Nevertheless, in evaluating the literature review, it is evident that there is a proven correlation between drugs and crime (Brochu 2001), however it seems that the addiction occurs first and as such, the inherent problem lies in the fact that the “majority of the control remains with the dealers” (Holland). As such, “they will always have an unhealthy bias in wishing to keep the addicts well and truly addicted, regardless of the cost to society” (Holland).


The analysis demonstrates that there is no argument regarding the fact that there is a link between drugs and crime. However, most interestingly, the analysis clearly points to the inconsistency of current research which is suggested to be inefficient due to the direct failure “to properly address the issue of causality between drugs and crime” (Seddon 2000). Nevertheless, it is submitted that it is vital to develop research into evaluating precisely the definition of causality between drugs and crime and how it can be demonstrated through “effective” empirical research. It is arguable that the recent attempts of Brochu and Brunelle are evidence of movements in the right direction in considering the socio-economic context and acknowledging that the nature of addiction is fundamental to the understanding of the relationship. However, a consistent approach is needed in order for weight to be attached to the credibility of this new body of empirical research

From a theoretical perspective, it is re-iterated that the review demonstrates a “deterministic unidirectional cause-effect model that is conceptually inadequate for examining the drug-crime relationship” (Seddon 2000). By contrast, the third

criminological model which asserts that the link between drug and crime is part of a “complex process in which a large number of factors operating at different levels are implicated” (Seddon 2000) clearly has far more credibility (Seddon 2000). The proliferation of research into causality demonstrates that a multitude of trigger factors may be involved in the process of drug use and addiction, including the type of drug used, individual psychological make up of the sample studied, local economies, local cultures and subcultures and the broader socio-economic context (Burr 1987).

As to how these factors are linked, the literature suggests that firstly, the interrelation is interactive with the relationships between factors “better described in terms of tendencies or probabilities rather than as determined or inevitable” (Seddon 2000).

This “conceptualisation” of causality can draw parallels with “realist” or “scientific realist” approaches to social science theorem (Sayer 1992; Pawson and Tilley 1997). For example, Sayer describes causation by utilising concepts of causal powers and liabilities, necessity and contingency (Sayer 1992), which can clearly be reconciled with the third model regarding the interrelation of complex processes, multiple causal factors and context considerations. Similarly, Pawson and Tilley (1997) highlight the necessity in appreciating complex causal mechanisms and their methods of operation in various contextual situations. It is submitted that a focused and closer study by researchers in this area through the “realist” lens would provide appropriate theoretical justifications for explaining the drug crime link (Pawson and Tilley 1997).

This concept of causality has also influenced consideration of mainstream sociology (Weber 1997). For example, Weber refers to the multi-causal facets of sociological phenomena (Weber 1997) but also develops his own concept of “adequate causality”, which states that social science should focus on the probabilistic relationship between drugs and crime instead of “automatic determinative ones” (Weber 1997). Similarly, it has been argued that Marx’s dialectical research methodology format demonstrates that the social context of the criminological link needs to be considered in terms of “complex interactive relationships rather than with the unidirectional cause-effect models” (Seddon 2000). Thus, in this sense, it can be argued that future research into causality requires a sociological approach (Seddon 2000).

This notion of causality proposed is rooted in the implied notion of the individual as a “subject” which lies somewhere between the classical concept of “the free willed individual and the determinism of positivist criminology” (Seddon 2000). This is further referred to as “self-determinism”, which asserts that an individual has free will regarding behaviour, which is inherently restricted by particular social, economic and cultural circumstances (Weber 1997).

With regard to the methodological dimension of developing the causality argument in future research, several considerations are applicable. In general terms, “qualitative research methods provide the best tools” for evaluating the complex machinations of the drug crime relationship discussed above (Sayer 1992). Although quantitative research is useful in identifying links and determining probabilities, it is limited by inability to give answers of how and why in the drug/crime link debate (Sayer 1992).

Accordingly, it is submitted that in order to identify and explain specific elements of the third model going forward “ethnographies of drug-crime association is required”. An example of this would be adopting the methodological approach of Brochu and Brunelle in considering a comparative analysis of drug using offenders and non-drug users in similar socio-demographic characteristics over a period of time in order to highlight the methods by which individuals become involved in different patterns of addiction and criminal activity and by which some remain non-offenders. Furthermore, in developing the use of “self-determinism” it is submitted that these studies need to consider the processes identified within wider concepts of culture, ethnicity, gender and variances in drugs used.

The literature review clearly has policy implications and Bennett argues that the notion of drug treatment or prescribing as a significant means of crime reduction is inherently flawed by the belief that drug addiction causes crime, which is not conclusively supported by the empirical data available (2005). Further as suggested by Parker and Kirby (1996), the increasing growth of poly-drug use “may pose demanding new challenges on current treatment responses, particularly those based on use of opiate substitutes such as methadone. Accordingly, drug treatment as a panacea for property crime is a strategy unlikely to succeed” (1996).

If we consider this in context of the implementation of the DTTO, which was introduced by the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), it has been reported that there were severe problems associated with the DTTO in practice; namely the low retention rates and high reconviction rates (Finch & Ashton 2005). Consequently many offenders sentenced to the DTTO failed to benefit from the treatment objective and studies into reductions in drug related crime did not reveal significant results (Finch & Ashton 2005). As a result, the recent report undertaken on behalf of the UK Drug policy Commission (UKDPC) suggested that “benefits of drugs treatment programmes were limited because some users relapsed and many went untreated” (BBC NEWS 2007).

Fundamentally, retention rates were found to be crucial to the success of the treatment order and it was suggested by Finch et al that a less stringent approach to breaches of the order would facilitate its success in treatment. This in itself highlights the complexities of the drug crime relationship and it is suggested “that greater attention to the enhancement of motivation and understanding the complexities of both the drug crime relationship and addiction needs to be focused upon in future treatment initiatives” in order to improve retention rates (Walton 2007).

It is submitted that the DTTO fails to fully implement practices which deal with causes of the drug/crime connection and as such, should incorporate a variety of interventions (Bennett et al 2005). Furthermore, a heightened understanding of motivational theories is vital to the success of treatment (Walton 2007).

The DTTO targets offenders deemed “highly problematic, committing high amounts of drug use and related crime” (Walton 2007), which supports the method of longitudinal research provided by the National Treatment Outcome Research Study (NTORS), which demonstrated that of the participants samples studied, 10% of problematic drug users were committing 75% of drug related crime for this group (Gossop et al 2001). As such, the DTTO aimed to reduce the drug crime link via targeting the most prolific offenders (Walton 2007). These factors meant that the DTTO essentially became “the government’s flagship to deal with the problem of drug abuse and crime” (Bean 2004: 132).

The standalone DTTO has been gradually phased out in favour of the Drug Rehabilitation Requirement due to the Community Sentencing provisions introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The DRR establishes a framework aimed to treat via a variety of intensity levels. However, there is a lack of documentation regarding how effective it is in responding to the problems posed by South (2001).

Furthermore, the debates into the DTTO demonstrate that the qualitative data research was often not prioritised due to the drive for statistics and data to justify politically motivated legislative initiatives. As such, the qualitative data available is inherently limited in value to the short term. As such, there is a need for:

“longitudinal studies upon the nature of the drug-crime relationship which incorporates understanding beyond explanations of economic compulsive crime and ……… to delve into the roots of addiction to understand cognitive, physiological and behavioural aspects of the relationship between problematic drug use and acquisitive crime and offender responses” (Walton 2007).

Moreover the effectiveness of this method needs to be evaluated by a “prolonged understanding of offender experiences” (Walton 2007), which essentially means a partial withdrawal from quantitative research. This may prove costly, however it is argued that the schemes could implemented for regular supervised studies and testing of regular samples over a specified and prolonged period of time.

Clearly, more is needed to understand and implement interventions which deal with addiction and motivational issues within drug treatment requirements within the criminal justice system and “Motivational Interviewing” is not sufficient per se to achieve “lasting change” (West 2006:190). Therefore the criminal justice system needs to understand and tackle the complexities surrounding motivation to a greater degree.

One method would be to expand the approach to treatment of offenders. Preble and Casey (1969) suggest that “adopted lifestyles are crucial factors in the existence of the relationship between drugs and crime” and Gifford and Humphreys (2007) further support the importance of socio-environmental factors treating addiction. Accordingly, increasing research into positive socio-economic factors in an offenders’ life is vital as a comparative with negative factors.

Overall, the criminal justice system needs to “acknowledge that the nature of addiction is complex which manifests in a “relapse” culture as part of the process of change” (Seddon 2000). Furthermore, the suggestion that the government is failing to understand and incorporate theories of addiction and motivation are still valid today. How the DTTO implementation highlights the flaws in the drug research regarding the understanding of drug crime relationship. As such the understanding of the drug crime relationship must continue to fully evaluate how to adequately respond.

The literature indicates that the drug crime association is best viewed “as simply one particular pattern of delinquency” (Walton 2007). In other words, “drug related crime is more label descriptive of a set of certain behaviour which has little independent heuristic value” (Walton 2007). As such, the literature review suggests that a more effective drugs policy should deal with broader concepts of delinquency of which “drug related crime” is just one part (Seddon 2000). In doing so, the categories of delinquency should be considered within “wider social processes, which are currently ignored” (Seddon 2000).

It is submitted that future research should evaluate through a “contextualised ethnographic” method, which develops notions of causality with large scale reassessment through quantitative survey data in order to develop the third model explaining the link between drugs and crime (Walton 2007). These two areas neglected by researchers and should be priorities for studies going forward in order to elucidate the causality behind the established link between drugs and crime (Seddon 2000).


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