How Addiction Can Perpetuate Violent Crime

How Addiction Can Perpetuate Violent CrimeCASAColumbia, formerly known as the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, published a report in 2010 that said 65 percent of all US inmates meet the clinical criteria for substance addiction and another 20 percent have substance abuse histories. The study also showed that alcohol and drugs were involved in 78 percent of violent crimes and 83 percent of property crimes in 2006. Tragically, only 11 percent of all inmates receive addiction treatment during incarceration, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) website estimates that 95 percent of inmates resume drug and alcohol use when they are released. There is undeniably a link between addiction and violent crime, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) argued in 2002 that every dollar spent on addiction treatment saves communities $12 in other expenses.

Addiction and Violence

There are several ways in which addiction can motivate violence, including the following:

  • Addicts often struggle to maintain employment and may rob to support daily necessities.
  • An obsession with procuring and using the drug may motivate illegal or violent behavior.
  • Illicit drug procurement may involve dangerous settings, individuals, and scenarios.
  • Alcohol and stimulant intoxication can motivate bullying and aggressive behavior.
  • Substance abuse diminishes sound reasoning and one’s ability to avoid conflict.
  • Intoxication can increase domestic violence and sexual assault in certain individuals.
  • NCADD estimates that 95 percent of violent crime and 90 percent of acquaintance rape on college campuses involve alcohol abuse.

Drug laws are arguably another issue. Jail time for non-violent drug possession, such as a first offense for any amount of marijuana possession, is punishable by up to a year in jail. This can produce ex-convicts with untreated addiction and limited employment opportunities. Addiction treatment often produces better results than punishment, and many judiciaries now utilize alternative sentencing that allows certain offenders to undergo mandatory treatment in lieu of jail time.

Mental Illness and Violent Crime

In 2010, The Guardian in England published the findings of a three-decade study on addiction, mental illness, and violent crime, which included the following:

  • Addicts with mental disorders are up to seven times more likely to commit violent acts like murder, manslaughter, and sexual violence.
  • Individuals with mental illness alone only showed a “minimally increased risk” for committing violent crime.
  • The title of the article summarized the findings as, “Substance abuse, not mental illness, causes violent crime.”

The World Psychiatry journal also argued in 2003 that the mentally ill are not more violent than others, but mental illness stigmas and symptoms can complicate employment and social interactions, which an addiction can make worse. While substance abuse is often the catalyst for violence, co-occurring addiction and mental disorders can further elevate the risk. Likewise, mental disorders often drive addictive behavior.

Addiction Treatment

Rehabilitation centers can help addicts with several potential treatments, including the following:

  • Medically supervised detoxification in a safe and comfortable environment
  • Integrated diagnosis and therapies for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Individual counseling to address unresolved trauma, abuse, and violence issues
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy to address unhealthy thought patterns and beliefs
  • Strategies for neutralizing cues that trigger substance cravings and violent urges
  • Motivational interviewing to help patients find personal reasons to want change

For addicts with multiple life issues, case managers are often available to help coordinate and secure a wide range of necessary services.

Free Addiction Helpline

Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline, and one of our admissions coordinators will answer any questions and explain the many rehabilitation options. If you have health insurance, we can also look up its treatment benefits. If you or a loved one needs help, please call now.

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