The relationship between drugs and violence seems apparent – drug abuse leads to violence. However, research shows that there is very little evidence to support this hypothesis, with the exception of alcohol abuse. There is no significant causal link in general between the use of illicit drugs and violent crimes. But there are are two main links between drug use and and violent crimes. Abusers of particular drugs may commit violent crimes, and distribution of drugs can lead to violent crimes.
Individuals who are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs can be involved in the perpetration of violence because of the disinhibiting nature of the drugs. This lack of inhibition may lead to a person being involved in activities that are criminal or violent. This is particularly true for people who are affected by alcohol. Evidence suggests that crimes that are committed by people who are under the influence of drugs are also affected by alcohol.
Alcohol and Violence
Alcohol and violent behavior are intrinsically linked and alcohol mediated domestic violence, sexual assaults, homicides, anti-social behavior and property crimes are all too common. Being the victim of physical or verbal abuse committed by a person affected by alcohol is more than twice as likely to occur than for any other drug type.
People under the influence of alcohol can have varied reactions to the drink. They can become aggressive, passive aggressive, angry, depressed, social or happy. Engaging in binge drinking or chronic hazardous drinking increases the risk of exhibiting negative behaviors and losing control of ones behavior. It is when a person is heavily intoxicated that they may be involved in assaults, sex crimes, property crimes or become the victim of a crime themselves.
Drug Consumers and Violence
Research is increasingly showing that drug use and violent crimes are not related, especially concerning marijuana, psychoactive drugs, opiates and cocaine. These drugs tend to cause individuals to become relaxed, feel euphoric, have empathy and not have the anger, aggression or rage that would be associated with a violent crime. It is suggested that drug users who fall in those categories are more likely to engage in non-violent property crimes.
However, the increased use of methamphetamine and crack cocaine can be linked to an increase in violent behavior. Both methamphetamine and crack are powerful stimulants that produce alertness, paranoia and a variety of other unpredictable and adverse reactions. These drugs specifically can cause people to become irrational, excited, agitated and become unable to control anger or violent impulses.
Tweaking is a term that is used to describe the behavior that methamphetamine and crack users display which includes worsening paranoia, belligerence and chronic, violent drug seeking. When a person is in this state they will become involved in random acts of violence and aggression which can include prostitution, sexual assaults and in some cases, homicide.
Violent Sex Crimes
Methamphetamine and crack cocaine are associated with a condition known as hyper-sexuality. This condition refers to extreme sexual urges that are often aggressive and compulsive. Individuals who suffer from this affliction when they are under the influence of drugs will often be engaged in high risk sex, have desires to engage in violent and abusive sexual conduct, compulsive masturbation and sexual behavior. These feelings can lead to committing sexual assaults and rape in some cases.
Research suggests that up to 50 percent of all cases of sexual assault, including rape, involves alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim or both. Alcohol can cause people to become aggressive, sexually aroused and violent. Individuals under the influence may assault someone who is also drunk, they may take advantage of someone who is intoxicated or they could commit spousal rape.
Violence and Drug Distribution
Violent crimes associated with drug distribution is common. The occurrence of street level violence to enforce organizational discipline or resolve business disputes is high and these disputes are typically over drug purchases and drug paraphernalia. Trading in illicit substances can lead to drug related violence as drug dealers and distributors compete against one another for markets and customers.
Crack cocaine and methamphetamine are often sold and used in areas that are defined by poverty and social disorganization. These are poor neighborhoods with few options for work or leisure activities, existing social problems such as broken families, unemployment and abuse. The rapid growth of crack and methamphetamine use and the emergence of drug-selling organizations in these areas has contributed to an increase in violent crimes. The presence and involvement in organized gangs as part of the drug distribution networks has further established the link between drugs and violence.