Drug-related crime

Drug use and crime: some data (1)

Several sources show that a majority of drug users in treatment have been in contact with the criminal justice system. Among individuals charged with crimes and convicted prisoners, studies in Greece (Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, 2000) and England and Wales (Bennett, 2000) show that drug users are more likely than non-drug users to have committed several types of crimes. Property crimes are generally identified as the main type of crime committed by drug users (Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, 2000; Bennett, 2000; Meijer et al., 2002).

As regards the link between drug use and crime, a study of the Irish prison population (Hannon et al., 2000) found that 51 % of men and 69 % of women claimed to be under the influence of drugs when they committed the crime for which they were incarcerated. Another study (Millar et al., 1998) of juvenile suspected offenders in Ireland estimated that 42 % of cases were related to alcohol use, 17 % to drug use and 4 % to both, alcohol being most likely to be associated with public order offences, while drugs were most often associated with robberies.

Though interesting, these results should be seen as an example rather than as representative of the link between drug use and crime: first, because they come from studies carried out in specific populations; second, because they might vary considerably according to the drug used; and, third, because a link – especially a causal one – between drug use and crime is particularly difficult to determine.

(1) The results shown in the box were provided by Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in their 2002 national reports to the EMCDDA.

Drug-related crime can be considered to include criminal offences in breach of drug legislation, crimes committed under the influence of illicit drugs, crimes committed by users to support their drug habit (mainly acquisitive crime and drug dealing) and systemic crimes committed as part of the functioning of illicit markets (fight for territories, bribing of officials, etc.). Except for drug law offences, routinely available data do not provide information on these categories and, when available, they come from ad hoc local studies and are not suitable for extrapolation.