There is a relationship between addiction and crime. They feed into each other. It is much more than addicts and alcoholics stealing things to feed their addiction. These crimes cause much more harm to society than we think. These crimes are dangerous and, at times, fatal. There are things we can do to help those suffering from addiction that will also help communities across the country.
The whole picture of the crime that relates to addiction has a lot of different moving parts. With increased drug abuse or heavier drinking, crime rates and their intensity increase, as well. Addicts and alcoholics are unhireable. With no income, some turn to illegal activities. Crimes like smuggling, dealing, theft, and prostitution are just a few examples of where addicts and alcoholics may turn to. Being under the influence of any substance will most likely cause run ins with the law. Drinking and driving is a big problem causing injuries and deaths around the country. For example, in 2019 the Pennsylvania State Police announced that troopers had made 22,139 DUIs, driving-under-the-influence, arrests. They reported that was a 10 percent jump from 2018. Also in that report, it was said that troopers investigated 4,692 DUI-related crashes in 2019. That is just one state. That is just one substance. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2018, 20.5 million people aged 16 or older 12.6 million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.
Drug-related offenses like drug possession or sales or stealing to get money for drugs are illegal activities that can land addicts in jail. The lifestyle addicts and alcoholics live can lead to engaging in more and more illegal activity. The association with other addicts can lead to associations with illicit markets. As an addiction grows so do the desperations and the crimes they are willing to commit. This is where the crimes get much more serious. Addicts can become drug mules, moving large amounts of drugs across the borders, out our ports, and across state-to-state. According to the 2019 National Drug Threat Assessment by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Mexican drug smuggling business is growing and extremely lucrative. According to this Assessment, “They (Mexican cartels) continue to expand their criminal influence by engaging in business alliances with other TCOs (Transnational Crime Organizations), including independent TCOs, and work in conjunction with transnational gangs, U.S.-based street gangs, prison gangs, and Asian money laundering organizations (MLOs).
Mexican TCOs export significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and fentanyl into the United States annually. The drugs are delivered to user markets in the United States through transportation routes and distribution cells that are managed or influenced by Mexican TCOs, and with the cooperation and participation of local street gangs.” Our citizens are suffering so much they will turn to these types of crimes. These crimes cause larger jail and prison populations and the need for more police. This costs the U.S. more money each year. As addictions grow, crime grows, the cost of preventing crime grows, and we all feel it.
What We Do
The toll these crimes take on our society have a large ripple effect. For example, an addict gets caught driving under the influence and is found with drugs on their persons. First, we need the police to find the crime, we then need the prosecutor to prosecute the crime, then we need a jail or prison to send them to. That is all taxpayer money. That person that is now in jail has a family, perhaps even children. The toll this takes on the families is just as taxing. It causes more pain and more money. We take addicts and alcoholics and put them in jail or prison with little or no access to treatment. So, when the addict or alcoholic gets out of prison they leave with no education or information on how to live a clean healthy life.
What We Should Do
When an addict or alcoholic gets into trouble with the law, there needs to be more options than just jail or prisons in most states. There are some states that will offer rehab for a first offense known as drug court. The first drug court was established in Florida in 1989 in an effort to make addiction treatment part of the state’s criminal justice system, according to a report from The Sentencing Project.
The goal of this alternative court was to give drug offenders the opportunity to recover from substance abuse or dependence while remaining under the court’s supervision. Florida’s program proved successful, and as of 2009, the number of drug courts in the US had grown to 1,600. Drug courts are a trend that focuses on treatment rather than incarceration. Addicts and alcoholics benefit from diversion by getting the treatment they need. This also benefits the community with a reduced crime rate. Programs like these can offer a chance to get out of the cycle of addiction. These programs can offer addicts and alcoholics the treatment they may not have sought on their own.
Whether we like it or understand it or not, addiction is a nationwide problem. It is a bigger problem than we think. We can help combat these problems with helping the addict or alcoholic before they get put into the prison system. This is something we can all take part in helping. If you or someone you know is suffering- make a call.