Key Question #7
What Is the Connection Between Addiction and Crime?
While many people with drug and alcohol problems do not commit crimes, there is a clear link between crime and the use of drugs and alcohol:
At the time of arrest…data from 35 sites across the country show that in most of the sites more than 60 percent of those arrested tested positive for at least one illegal drug.1
People under supervision of the criminal justice system…60 to 80 percent of prison and jail inmates, parolees, probationers, and arrestees were either under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the commission of their offense, committed the offense to support a drug or alcohol addiction, were charged with a drug - or alcohol-related crime, or were regular substance users.2 In a 2004 survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated that about 53 percent of state and 45 percent of Federal prisoners met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for drug abuse or dependence.3
People who are in addiction treatment…Approximately two-thirds of clients in long-term residential drug treatment, one-half of clients in outpatient drug treatment, and one-quarter of clients in methadone maintenance treatment are currently awaiting a criminal trial or sentencing, have been sentenced to community supervision on probation, or were conditionally released from prison on parole.4
More than 50 percent of violent crimes, including domestic violence, 60 to 80 percent of child abuse and neglect cases, 50 to 70 percent of theft and property crimes, and 75 percent of drug dealing or manufacturing offenses involve drug use on the part of the perpetrator—and sometimes the victim as well.5
Studies show that most of the individuals under the supervision of the criminal justice system with drug and alcohol problems and addictions have never received treatment in the community other than detoxification.6 Since detoxification is the first of several stages within the continuum of addiction treatment, detoxification alone has minimal impact on an individual’s ability to quit using drugs over the long term.
2 “Substance abuse and the prison population: A three-year study by Columbia University reveals widespread substance abuse among the individuals population.” Corrections Today, 60(6), 82-89, Belenko, S., Peugh, J., Califano, J. A., Usdansky, M., & Foster, S. E. (1998) as cited in “Integrating Substance Abuse Treatment and Criminal Justice Supervision,” Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D.NIDA Science and Practice Perspectives, Volume 2, Number 1 - September 2003,
3 “Substance dependence, abuse, and treatment of jail inmates, 2002,”, J.C. Karberg and D.J. James, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005
4 “Integrating Substance Abuse Treatment and Criminal Justice Supervision,” Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D.NIDA Science and Practice Perspectives, Volume 2, Number 1 - September 2003.
http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/Perspectives/vol2no1/02Perspectives-Integrating.pdf; “Characteristics and pretreatment behaviors of clients entering drug abuse treatment: 1969 to 1993.” American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 23(1):43-59, Craddock, S.G., et al., 1997.
5 “Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population,” Belenko, S., and Peugh, J., 1998. New York: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and National Institute of Justice, 1999; “Annual Report on Drug Use Among Adult and Juvenile Arrestees,” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice as cited in “Integrating Substance Abuse Treatment and Criminal Justice Supervision,” Douglas B. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D.NIDA Science and Practice Perspectives, Volume 2, Number 1 - September 2003.
6 “An Examination of Drug Treatment Programs Needed to Ensure Successful Re-entry,” Testimony of Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, February 8, 2006