Drug addiction has no doubt been reported to be one of the leading causes of crime in the United States. In 2002, according to figures from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, about a quarter of persons convicted for property crimes as well as drug offenders in county jails committed such crimes in a bid to raise money to fund their addiction. These findings align with the findings in 2004 where 17% of inmates in U.S State prisons and 18% of inmates in federal prisons committed their crimes to obtain money for drugs. These figures represent a disturbingly significant number of persons whose lives were uprooted because of drug addiction and its resulting negative trappings. This piece will focus on drug addiction, its relation to crime, and the source of legal help in the event of drug-related crimes.
What is drug addiction?
This question is quite relevant seeing that most drug addicts are completely oblivious of their condition until they find themselves in the backseat of a police vehicle. Some others are very aware of their condition but are unable to wrap their head around how they came to be in their current predicament.
Drug addiction is the inability of a person to stop the usage of a substance irrespective of the obvious physical, medical, and psychological harm and in which any attempt to quit the usage is accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. The primary problem behind addiction is the loss of control on the part of the individual. Addiction results from repeated exposure to substances that stimulate the pleasure centers that are domiciled in the central nervous system. The mechanisms surrounding it are a tad complex but generally involve the stimulation of centers involved in reward and motivation, inhibition of impulses and behavior, and memory and learning.
No single individual kicks off the consumption of a substance hoping to get “hooked” on it. The susceptibility of an individual to being addicted to a substance is determined by the interplay of several factors. These factors include but are not limited to the age at the onset of exposure, the duration of exposure, genetic susceptibility, and other environmental factors. Initially, the consumption of this drug, in their mind, is justified by reason until prolonged exposure in which the redesign of the neuronal circuits in the pleasure areas of their brain results in compulsive usage which overrides their sense of judgment.
It is important to note that there are salient differences between drug abuse and drug addiction/dependence. Drug abuse is the use of a drug without a doctor’s prescription, in the wrong dose, or both. While all cases of drug addiction are a form of abuse, not all drug abuse amounts to an addiction.
Drug abuse and crime; the link
A theory exists that explains the relationship between drug abuse and crime and is referred to as the economic-compulsive link. This link as stated previously is of the submission that addicts commit a crime to finance their addiction. As drugs are expensive and users have a compulsive need to utilize them, they resort to crimes in a bid to obtain money.
Several crimes in the history of man were attributable to drug addiction. Drug-related crimes are crimes punishable under criminal law that are associated with the possession, manufacture, or distribution of drugs that are classified as having the potential for abuse. These classes of drugs include heroin, morphine, amphetamines, and cocaine. In some states, even the possession of marijuana is considered a crime for persons below 21 and above certain quantities. According to a 1994 report by the U.S Department of Justice, drug users in the general population are more likely than nonusers to commit a crime. In the united states, although 80.5% of all drug arrests were for possession, 40.5% were related to marijuana according to reports submitted to the library of parliament. For this discussion, I will limit the scope of these crimes to those associated with addiction and not necessarily those due to large-scale manufacture and intention to distribute for monetary gains.
Crimes associated with drug use include property crime, drunk driving, shoplifting, violent crimes, and aggression like mugging and armed robbery, drug trafficking, fraud, prostitution, etc. In general, the crimes committed by these individuals are usually ones that do not require a very specific area of expertise and are usually against family members or in the workplace.
Federal laws against drug-related crimes
The Harrison Act of 1914 was the first major drug law requiring the registration of drug dealers. In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act was enacted and forms the foundation of the war against recreational drug use. Also, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 scaled up the punishment for drug users. Other laws include the crime Control and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Acts of 1990 and 1994 respectively.
The penalties prescribed by these laws depend on the substance(s) involved, quantity possessed, crime committed, and the previous encounter with lawmen. These penalties include jail time or time in federal prison, community service, heavy fines, probation, house arrest, limitation on one’s ability to enjoy certain privileges, and a judgment that permanently goes into one’s record.
Treatment for drug addiction
The most common limiting problem in the treatment of addiction is relapse. The management of addiction is a very complex process that requires a multistep approach if relapse is to be avoided and the outcome favorable. The best course of treatment is the one that incorporates both pharmacological and behavioral therapy approaches. It is however important to note that treatment should be individualized to meet the specific needs of the individual. Treatment should be geared towards addressing the social, psychological, and behavioral components of the addiction.
Relationship between treatment for addiction and decline in crime rate
Extrapolating from the economic-compulsive theory of drug-related crime, it appeals to the reason that addiction treatment will eliminate the compulsion that drives the individual to criminal activity. Several pieces of literature abound that support this view. an interview with Harold Pollack, the co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab, “when criminals receive help, the economic value of crimes reduction largely or completely offsets the cost of treatment”. This agrees with a publication by the New York Times titled “spend a dollar on drug treatment and save more on crime reduction”. In addition to the above, a study by the National Drug Library in 2012, every 100 Euros spent on drug treatment services prevents a crime from being committed.
Results from prison-based treatment for addiction from R.J Donovan medium-security prison in San Diego, California which has a good treatment program, reveals that among inmates who completed treatment and aftercare, just a small number (8%) were re-incarcerated within one year of their release. This significantly varies from the 39% in the case of those who completed treatment without aftercare. However, among those who failed to complete their treatment and those who did not receive treatment at all, 45% and 50% were re-incarcerated within the first year. Summarily, there is an observable decline in the degree of crime by drug addicts following treatment.
Legal help for those involved in drug-related crimes
The United States legal system over the years has had a reputation for clamping down hard on drug-related crime offenders. Bearing in mind the negative implications of conviction over a drug crime, an individual must seek effective representation to avert or limit these outcomes. Different law firms abound that handle these types of cases within the various states of the United States. According to Joshua Adam Engel, an Ohio Drug Crimes Attorney a defendant should look for an attorney that specializes in the representation of persons accused of drug crimes and are quite versed in cases involving search and seizure issues in trial courts and have years of experience in their belt. Should the need arise, it would be a great decision to contact them.
There exists a significant relationship between drug addiction and violent crimes. Comprehensive treatment of offenders in drug-related crimes has been shown to reduce the incidence and economic burden of crime. Legal help is available for individuals accused of drug-related offenses across the United States.