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Substance Abuse and Violent Crime

Violent crime has been closely associated with substance abuse since Prohibition was in effect in the United States more than 80 years ago. Since then rates of violent crime have skyrocketed, especially in the decades after the US government took up an active war on drugs. But while a great deal of this violence can be attributed to the enforcement of drug laws, much of it is associated with increased instances of non-enforcement related violent crime like rape, robbery and murder perpetrated by individual drug users. Overall the ties between violence and substance abuse are difficult to define but impossible to dismiss.

According to Santa Clara Law University Professor and author David D. Friedman;

“. . . the link between drugs and violent crime could occur in three ways: violent crime by consumers of drugs, violent crime associated with the production and distribution of drugs, or violent crime directly associated with the attempt to enforce drug prohibition.”(1)

Therefore, it’s fairly easy for most people to understand that violence related to drug use occurs primarily when:

*Individual drug users commit acts of violence to get money or assets to exchange for more drugs
*Drug traffickers and/or manufacturers engage in violence related to territory or other disputes
*Law enforcement officials and drug traffickers engage in violent action

Prison statistics across the nation confirm the relationship between drugs and the commission of violent crime. For instance, 27% of state and federal inmates in prison in the United States for robbery in 1991 admitted that they committed their crimes in an effort to obtain money to buy drugs or items they could sell or trade for drugs.(2) Furthermore, nearly 33% of inmates in state prisons in 1997 admitted that they were under the influence of drugs at the time they committed their crimes.(3)

While these correlations between substance abuse and violent crime might seem readily apparent, there are a number of instances of violent crime related to drug use that are do not fall under one of these three general types of drug related crime. This includes rape, sexual assault and family or domestic violence. Statistics are difficult to compile and analyze because victims of these crimes are often involved with drugs themselves and there are other factors that make it difficult to determine exactly what part drug use plays in violence, such as economic, hereditary, environmental, situational, psychological, and other factors.

Substance Abuse Hotline 1-800-706-9190

Increasingly drugs have been used as a weapon by sexual predators to incapacitate their victims, although this has been a problem for decades. People who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cannot give consent to sex or defend themselves can be subject to rapes and sexual assault, many of which are never prosecuted or even reported.

Because of the correlation between substance abuse and violent crime, it’s imperative to seek help if you or someone you love is battling a drug problem. Our Florida Drug Rehab Center offers free consultations to help you no matter where you are or what your situation is . . . but we can’t help you if you don’t call.

(1) Friedman, David D Drugs, Violence and Economics
Accessed 06/02/2011

(2) Office of National Drug control Policy Table 3. Percentage of Federal and State prison inmates who committed their offense to obtain money to buy drugs, 1991
Accessed 06/02/2011

(3) Office of National Drug Control Policy Table 2. Percentage of State and Federal prison inmates who reported being under the influence of drugs at time of their offense, 1997
Accessed 06/02/2011


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