Relationship Between Illicit Drugs And Crime
The evidence regarding narcotic-induced pharmacological violence suggests that psychoactive drugs do not stimulate violent behavior in any systematic way (U.S. Department of Justice 1994f). While abuse of some narcotics may be related to violent behavior, Goldstein notes that certain drugs, such as heroin or tranquilizers, may have a "reverse psychopharmacological effect and ameliorate violent tendencies." In such cases, certain individuals might be self-medicating by using these drugs.
The study provides strong evidence supporting the economic model of narcotics and crime. Goldstein points out that "study demonstrates that most crimes committed by most drug users are non-violent (e.g., shoplifting, prostitution, and drug selling)." Research conducted in the 1960s and 1970s suggested that income-generating crime, like property crime, was the most predominant narcotic drug-related crime (U.S. Department of Justice 1980). A later study confirmed this relation and demonstrated, for instance, that criminal activity among heroin addicts declined sharply during non-addiction periods (Ball et al. 1981). However, a recent study suggests that these patterns might be changing and that more frequently, abusers of narcotics (including opiates, such as heroin) engage in drug distribution crimes (Nurco et al. 1991). The relation between consumption of nonnarcotic drugs (like cocaine or hallucinogens) and crime is unclear. Nonetheless, numerous studies conclude that cocaine consumption has been strongly associated with virtually all types of crime, including drug distribution, theft, violence, and confidence games (Nurco et al. 1991).
Goldstein suggests that systemic violence is an essential factor in narcotic distribution, but other social and economic factors might also contribute to and account for the level of violent activity. Regions that experience more elevated levels of drug trafficking activity also lack social organization, have elevated rates of interpersonal violence and are economically disadvantaged. However, this relation could be attributed to the presence of narcotic markets that is a precursor to or a result of the aforementioned social and economic factors contributing to the deterioration of that area (Collins 1990). Often, drug-related violent crimes, like homicides and assaults, are related to drug marketing activities (e.g., disputes among rival distributors or between buyers and sellers of drugs) (U.S. Department of Justice 1994f). For instance, of the 347 drug-related homicides reported in New York City in 1984, 67 percent were in drug locations and were usually in areas where drugs were sold (U.S. Department of Justice 1992a).
Research of criminal-justice populations strongly suggests that alcohol and narcotic consumption are related to different types of crime, but it is important to distinguish between the various types. Drawing on Goldstein's framework, these types of crime can include violent crime, economic crime, and systemic crime. The evidence suggests that dependence on an expensive narcotic generates economic motives that play an important role in income-generating criminal activity. Even though the relationship between illegal drug use and violence is very poorly understood, it can be stated with some certainty that some systemic violence is associated with the drug trade.