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Psychological Research: Relationship Between Drugs and Crime

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The relationship between drugs and crime has been the subject of psychological research for several decades. It is not a crime to have a drug addiction however it is a crime to use, manufacture or distribute drugs. Drug addiction and crime are related because of the effects they have on the user’s behavior which generates them to commit crimes and violent activity.

Addiction is defined as a behavior over which an individual has impaired control with harmful consequences. The main types of addiction are associated with alcohol, drugs, gambling, and nicotine. Someone who is addicted to drugs will have an intense focus on the drug they use and will let it take over their life. Someone who is addicted to drugs may have a substance use disorder that causes them to have distorted thinking, behavior, and body functions. The craving for drugs is caused by changes in someone’s brain’s wiring which make it hard for them to stop using the drugs.

Drug use is higher than expected with around one-third (34.2%) of adults aged between sixteen and fifty-nine had taken drugs at some point in their lifetime. The Impact Pathways (2020) show that at least one in eight arrestees are estimated to be heroin or crack users. 81% of arrestees who used heroin or crack said they had committed a crime in the last 12 months.

There are three groups which can explain the causes of drug addiction and crime. Forward causation explains that drug use causes crime either through the need to fund drug use through economic necessity or because of psychopharmacological changes precipitated by drug ingestion. Reverse Causation explains that involvement with crime leads to drug use, if there is an opportunity for someone to use drugs, they are more likely to be involved in criminal behavior. Confounding explains that drug use and crime use share a set of causes and there is not a direct relationship between the two, they occur because of a common cause or a set of causes.

When an individual becomes addicted to drugs, they will neglect important things in their life like family responsibilities and work as they only think about the drugs. Some individuals will even lead to criminal activity to feed their drug addiction which shows there is a link between drug addiction and crime. Drug addiction and crime are linked due to drug users willing to commit any type of crime to get money to buy drugs. Users may commit crimes such as shoplifting and fraud to get money to buy drugs. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (1994) conducted research in the United States and found that drug use and crime are related, and continuous use of these drugs will lead to more violent crimes.

However, drug addiction and crime can be seen to be exaggerated because a lot of drug users who commit crimes were committing crimes before they started taking any drugs suggesting that drug use may not be the cause of crime. Drug addiction and crime are seen to be exaggerated because there are other factors which can lead to someone committing a crime such as social, cultural, and psychological factors. Removing drugs from someone’s everyday life would not put an end to the individual committing crimes. One of the factors which can lead to addiction is genetic factors, if parents have a drug addiction it is possible for the children to also have a drug addiction as they are living with their parent’s drug addiction and can adopt this habit.

Research over the years suggests that drug use is a factor which can explain why people commit crimes. The main reason being a drug addiction is expensive and a lot of people won’t be able to afford this habit so has to lead to crimes such as fraud and shoplifting to get money to be able to feed their habit.

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Psychological Research: Relationship Between Drugs and Crime. (2023, February 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
“Psychological Research: Relationship Between Drugs and Crime.” GradesFixer, 09 Feb. 2023,
Psychological Research: Relationship Between Drugs and Crime. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Mar. 2023].
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