Drug-related crime

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Drugs are related to crime. It is a direct crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute drugs which have the potential for abuse. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines are examples of drugs classified to have abuse potential. The effects drugs have on the user’s behavior also has relation to crime. Drugs generate violence and other illegal activities such as trafficking.


Why should I be aware of this?

  • A huge number of crimes are being committed because of the need for drug addicts to fund their habits. According to reports, half of all crime in England and Wales is drug related. Every year drug users raise half a billion pounds through crime to fund their addictions.
  • The need to fund their habits is so great among abusers that they resort to repeated stealing and in the process destroy themselves and play a part in destroying the community around them.

All about drug-related crime

Users engage in criminal acts to obtain the money they use to fund their drug habit. Dependence on an expensive substance can lead to greater crime. There are two types of crimes they may resort to

  • consensual crimes, such as drug selling or prostitution
  • acquisitive crimes, such as shoplifting, robbery, burglary.

Drug-related crime also includes the forging of prescriptions and the burgling of pharmacies by drug users, both of which provide medicines that can be used as substitutes for illicit products.

Skill and specialization

Some of the crimes committed by drug users require more skill and others involve some specialization. For example, fraud and embezzlement are white-collar crimes that require a specific professional environment.

Even non-violent citizens who consume controlled drugs such as PCP (phencyclidine), LSD and ketamine are known to cause vivid hallucinations and to induce a psychotic state. When such persons commit violent crime they will be convicted of a drug-related crime. Most states in the US have statutes that increase the penalty for drug-related crimes, rather than allowing it to be used as a defense. Drug-related crimes are taken very seriously and are punished more voraciously.

Also economic offence

As many corporations and other commercial operations have used legitimate businesses as a front for drug trafficking, drug related crimes can also be economic in nature. When these businesses come under investigation and are discovered to be disguises for drug-related activity, the penalties increase severely. Smuggling and trafficking in drugs is enormously profitable and the courts impose strict penalties on such offences.


Punishments for drug-related crimes depend on the type of drug in question. Certain drugs are known to be more dangerous than others. The quantity of drugs involved is also a factor; big-time drug dealers work with large quantities of narcotics and supply them to thousands of people. First-time offenders are usually guaranteed a lesser sentence than repeat offenders.

90 degrees

The Americas face the world’s biggest drug problem. Drug trafficking and the violence committed by its associated organized crime is the biggest threat to public safety in the Americas. What the citizens fear most is not terrorism, not climate change, not a financial crisis, but public safety. And in the Americas, the biggest threat to public safety comes from drug trafficking and the violence perpetrated by organized crime. [1]


Prison does not serve the purpose of rehabilitating someone commiting drug-related crime. It may on the contrary cause more harm which may then be spread to the community outside prisons. It is suggested that interventions may be a more effective way of working with problem drug users who commit crimes. The objectives of alternatives to prison vary but basically two can be identified:

  • To reduce criminal justice costs as well criminogenic effect in the case of minor offences;
  • To coerce severe drug addictsinvolved in crime to undertake appropriate treatment. [2]


  • Fact Sheet: Drug-Related Crime
  • Tackling drug-related crime
  • Drug-Related Crimes in Criminal Law


  1. UN News Centre
  2. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction