Addiction and Crime - Drug Addiction

This is a difficult subject to address as the relationship between the two is complex and thought-provoking.

We know that many addicts resort to crime to pay for their habit but there also some people who are addicted to the criminal act itself. So we have people who wouldn’t normally commit crime but have only turned to it out of an act of desperation and then there are those people who have already committed crime and then use this to fund their habit.

Punish or treatment?

The question is: do we punish people who commit crime to fund their addiction by locking them up or do we help them by sending them into rehab?

Some people may see the latter option this as ‘going soft’ on criminals but there is a difference between the two and if treatment helps them to kick their habit and prevent re-offending then it has to be considered as an option.

The ‘hang them and flog them’  brigade may differ but people who have committed crimes in order to pay for their addiction may benefit more from help and treatment rather than prison. The problem with prison is that drugs can be accessed (or smuggled in) whilst they are confined which means that they are able to continue with their habit.

This means that they are unlikely to stop their addiction and will likely re-offend once they leave prison.

The costs of dealing with this are prohibitively expensive so a better option may be to treat addicts rather than punishing them. There is evidence to show that addicts are less likely to re-offend if they receive treatment (source: 2008, Manchester University National Drug Evidence Centre).

Legalise drugs?

Drug dealing is big business not just in the UK but around the world. There are organised drug cartels in many countries that use the proceeds of this to fund criminal activity which means that there is an ongoing battle between them and the authorities - which is likely to continue.

One idea put forward is that of legalising drugs. Supporters of this argue that it would reduce crime especially drug-dealing as addicts wouldn’t have to resort to criminal behaviour to fund their habit. The costs of drugs could be controlled and set a rate which addicts could afford without having to steal in order to do so. Plus these drugs could be taxed and the revenue from these used to fund drug rehabilitation treatment.

There is also the possibility that doing this will lessen the attraction. Many of us enjoy something which is considered to be ‘forbidden fruit’ and part of that attraction is the knowledge that what we are doing has an element of risk.

However, opponents of this claim that it would lead to many more addicts, which would place an extra burden on taxpayers, the authorities and the State as a whole.

What do you do with people who are addicted to committing an offence? They may or may not be addicted to drugs but they still have an addiction, which in this case is to crime. There is no easy answer to this and work is still being undertaken into how this might be solved.

It has been suggested that unless we can change human nature itself then crime will always be with us.


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