BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Drugs and Crime Facts

Drug use and crime

At the time of the offense | Prior drug use by offenders


At the time of the offense

Drug-related crime

In 2004, 17% of state prisoners and 18% of federal inmates said they committed their current offense to obtain money for drugs. These percentages represent a slight increase for federal prisoners (16% in 1997) and a slight decrease for state prisoners (19% in 1997).

Source: BJS, Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004, NCJ 213530, October 2006 and Substance Abuse and Treatment, State and Federal Prisoners, 1997, NCJ 172871, January 1999.

In 2002 about a quarter of convicted property and drug offenders in local jails had committed their crimes to get money for drugs, compared to 5% of violent and public order offenders. Among state prisoners in 2004 the pattern was similar, with property (30%) and drug offenders (26%) more likely to commit their crimes for drug money than violent (10%) and public-order offenders (7%). In federal prisons property offenders (11%) were less than half as likely as drug offenders (25%) to report drug money as a motive in their offenses.


Percent of prison and jail inmates who committed offense to get money for drugs

  Local jail inmates State prisoners Federal prisoners
Offense 2002 2004 2004

Total 16.4 % 16.6 % 18.4 %
Violent 8.0   9.8   14.8  
Property 26.9   30.3   10.6  
Drugs 24.8   26.4   25.3  
Public-order 5.2   6.9   6.8  

Source: BJS, Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 209588, July 2005 and Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004, NCJ 213530, October 2006.

 

The Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that in 2007, 3.9% of the 14,831 homicides in which circumstances were known were narcotics related. Murders that occurred specifically during a narcotics felony, such as drug trafficking or manufacturing, are considered drug related.

Drug-related homicides

Year Number of homicides Percent drug related

1987 17,963 4.9 %
1988 17,971 5.6  
1989 18,954 7.4  
1990 20,273 6.7  
1991 21,676 6.2  
1992 22,716 5.7  
1993 23,180 5.5  
1994 22,084 5.6  
1995 20,232 5.1  
1996 16,967 5.0  
1997 15,837 5.1  
1998 14,276 4.8  
1999 13,011 4.5  
2000 13,230 4.5  
2001 14,061 4.1  
2002 14,263 4.7  
2003 14,465 4.7  
2004 14,210 3.9  
2005 14,965 4.0  
2006 15.087 5.3  
2007 14,831 3.9  

Note: The percentages are based on data from the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) while the totals are from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). Not all homicides in the UCR result in reports in the SHR.
Source: Table constructed by ONDCP Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse staff from FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

Offenders under the influence at the time of the offense

Victim's perception

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), in 2007, there were 5.2 million violent victimizations of residents age 12 or older. Victims of violence were asked to describe whether they perceived the offender to have been drinking or using drugs.

  • About 26% of the victims of violence reported that the offender was using drugs or alcohol.

Victim's perception of offender drug use chart [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.

Source: BJS, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 2007, Statistical Tables, Table 32.

College student victims

Overall 41% of violent crimes committed against college students and 38% of nonstudents were committed by an offender perceived to be using drugs, 1995-2000. About 2 in 5 of all rape/sexual assaults and about a quarter of all robberies against a college student were committed by an offender perceived to be using drugs.

Source: BJS, Violent Victimization of College Students, 1995-2000, NCJ 196143, December 2003. 

Victims of workplace violence

Of workplace victims of violence --

  • 35% believed the offender was drinking or using drugs at the time of the incident
  • 36% did not know if the offender had been drinking or using drugs
  • 27% of all workplace offenders had not been drinking or using drugs

Victims of workplace violence varied in their perception of whether the offender used alcohol or drugs by occupation.

  • 47% in law enforcement perceived the offender to be using alcohol or drugs
  • 35% in the medical field
  • 31% in retail sales

Source: BJS, Violence in the Workplace, 1993-99, NCJ 190076, December 2001. 

American Indian victims

Among victims of violence who were able to describe alcohol or drug use by offenders, American Indians (71%) were more likely than any other racial group to report an offender under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Overall, American Indian victims reported alcohol use by 62% of the offenders, compared to 42% for all races. In violent crimes experienced by American Indians where use was known, 48% of the offender was under the influence of alcohol, 9% were under the influence of drugs, or 14% were under the influence of both.


Violent victimization, by the perceived drug or alcohol use of the offender and by race of victim, 1992-2001

            Perceived drug or alcohol use by offender
           
Race of victim Total Alcohol Drugs Both Neither

Total 100 % 33 % 10 % 9 % 49 %
American Indian 100   48   9   14   29  
White 100   34   9   9   49  
Black 100   26   11   9   55  
Asian 100   27   8   6   60  

Note: Percents refer to the annual average for 1992-2001. Table excludes those respondents who were unable to report whether or not they perceived the offender to have been using drugs or alcohol.
Source: BJS, American Indians and Crime, 1992-2002, NCJ 203097, December 2004.
 

Perspectives of probationers, prisoners, and jail inmates

Probationers

The first national survey of adults on probation, conducted in 1995, reported that 14% of probationers were on drugs when they committed their offense.

Source: BJS, Substance Abuse and Treatment of Adults on Probation, 1995, NCJ 166611, March 1998.

Among probationers, 49% of the mentally ill and 46% of others reported alcohol or drug use at the time of the offense.

Source: BJS, Mental Health and Treatment and Inmates and Probationers, NCJ 174463, July 1999.

Prisoners

In the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities, 32% of state prisoners and 26% of federal prisoners said they had committed their current offense while under the influence of drugs. Among state prisoners, drug offenders (44%) and property offenders (39%) reported the highest incidence of drug use at the time of the offense. Among federal prisoners, drug offenders (32%) and violent offenders (24%) were the most likely to report drug use at the time of their crimes.

Source: BJS, Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004, NCJ 213530, October 2006.

About 74% of state prisoners who had a mental health problem and 56% of those without were dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs. By specific type of substance, inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of dependence or abuse of drugs than alcohol. Among state prisoners who had a mental health problem, 62% were dependent on or abused drugs and 51% alcohol.

Over a third (37%) of state prisoners who had a mental health problem said they had used drugs at the time of the offense, compared to over a quarter (26%) of state prisoners without a mental problem.

Source: BJS, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, NCJ 213600, September 2006.

Abused state inmates were more likely than those reporting no abuse to have been using illegal drugs at the time of their offense. This pattern occurred especially among female inmates. Forty-six percent of the abused women committed their current offense under the influence of illegal drugs. Among women who were not abused, 32% committed their offense while on drugs.

Source: BJS, Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers, NCJ 172879, April 1999.

A third of the parents in state prison reported committing their current offense while under the influence of drugs. Parents were most likely to report the influence of cocaine-based drugs (16%) and marijuana (15%) while committing their crime. About equal percentages of parents in state prison reported the use of opiates (6%) and stimulates (5%) at the time of their offense, while 2% used depressants or hallucinogens.

Thirty-two percent of mothers in state prison reported committing their crime to get drugs or money for drugs, compared to 19% of fathers.

Source: BJS, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, NCJ 182335, August 2000. 

Jail inmates

Of inmates held in jail, only convicted offenders were asked if they had used drugs at the time of the offense. In 2002, 29% of convicted inmates reported they had used illegal drugs at the time of the offense, down from 35% in 1996.

Marijuana and cocaine or crack were the most common drugs convicted inmates said they had used at the time of the offense --

  • 14% had used marijuana in 2002, down from 18% in 1996.
  • 11% had used cocaine or crack, down from 14% in 1996.

In 2002, jail inmates convicted of robbery (56%), weapons violations (56%), burglary (55%), or motor vehicle theft (55%) were most likely to have reported to be using drugs at the time of the offense.

Source: BJS, Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 209588, July 2005.

According to the Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, 1996, more than half of the jail inmates with an intimate victim had been drinking or using drugs when they committed the violent crime.

Source: BJS, Violence by Intimates, NCJ 167237, March 1998.

Seventy-six percent of jail inmates who had a mental health problem were dependent on or abused alcohol or drugs, compared to 53% of inmates without a mental health problem. This was the highest rate of substance dependence or abuse among all inmates, including state and federal prisoners.

By specific type of substance, jail inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of dependence or abuse of drugs than alcohol. An estimated 63% of local jail inmates who had a mental health problem were dependent on or abused drugs, while about 53% were dependent on or abused alcohol. Over a third (34%) of local jail inmates who had a mental health problem said they had used drugs at the time of the offense, compared to a fifth (20%) of jail inmates without a mental problem.

Source: BJS, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, NCJ 213600, September 2006.

Based on data from the 1996 Survey of Inmates in Local Jails, 29% of veterans and 32% of nonveterans in local jails were under the influence of drugs at the time of offense.

Source: BJS, Veterans in Prison or Jail, NCJ 178888, January 2000. 

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Prior drug use by offenders

Probationers | Jail inmates | and federal prison inmates

Probationers

In 1995 the first national survey of adults on probation reported --

  • nearly 70% of probationers reported past drug use
  • 32% said they were using illegal drugs in the month before their offense.
Marijuana (10%) was the most commonly used drug among probationers at the time of the offense.

Prior drug use of adults on probation at the time of offense, by type of drugs, 1995
Type of drug Percent of adults on probation who were under the influence of drugs at the time of offense

  Any drug 14 %
Marijuana/hashish 10
Cocaine/crack 4
Heroin and other opiates 1
Barbiturates 1
Stimulants 2
Hallucinogens 1

Note: Excludes 11,712 probationers for whom information on drug use was not provided.
Source: BJS, Substance Abuse and Treatment of Adults on Probation, 1995, NCJ 166611, March 1998.

In 1995 adults age 44 years old or younger on probation (87% of all probationers) reported similar levels of prior drug abuse, and their incidence of drug use was consistently higher than that of older probationers. Over 70% of probationers under age 45 reported some prior drug use, compared to 37% of those age 45 or older. Thirty-five percent of probationers under age 45 -- but 9% of older probationers -- reported drug use in the month before their offense.

Source: BJS, Substance Abuse and Treatment of Adults on Probation, 1995, NCJ 166611, March 1998.

Two-thirds of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offenders on probation reported using drugs in the past. Among DWI probationers, marijuana (65%) and stimulants (29%) were the most commonly used drugs. Seventeen percent of those on probation reported drug use in the month prior to arrest.

Prior drug use reported by probationers
  Percent of probationers
 

Level of prior drug use
DWI offenders Other
offenders

Ever used drugs/a 67.9 % 69.9 %
   Marijuana/hashish 64.6   67.2  
   Cocaine/crack 28.1   31.7  
   Heroin/opiates 5.7   8.8  
   Depressants/b 14.6   15.6  
   Stimulants/c 28.5   24.4  
   Hallucinogens/d 19.9   19.6
Ever used drugs regularly/e 55.6 % 64.2 %
Used drugs in month before arrest 16.6 % 35.7 %
Used drugs at time of arrest 3.3 % 16.1 %

a/Other unspecified drugs are included in the totals.
b/Includes barbiturates, tranquilizers, and Quaaludes.
c/Includes amphetamines and methamphetamines.
d/Includes LSD and PCP.
e/Used drugs at least once a week for at least a month.
Source: BJS, DWI Offenders under Correctional Supervision, NCJ 172212, June 1999.

Among DWI offenders, the most commonly reported experience associated with drug use was domestic disputes:

  • 19% of probationers said they had arguments with their family, friends, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend while under the influence of drugs.
  • About 1 in 10 of those on probation for DWI had been arrested or held in a police station as a result of their drug use.
  • 3% of those on probation had lost a job because of their drug use.
  • 8% of those on probation said they had been in a physical fight while under the influence of drugs.

    Source: BJS, DWI Offenders under Correctional Supervision,
    NCJ 172212, June 1999.

Nearly 40% of mentally ill probationers and 30% of other probationers reported using drugs in the month before their offense.

Source: BJS, Mental Health and Treatment and Inmates and Probationers, NCJ 174463, July 1999.

Jail inmates

More than two-thirds of local jail inmates (68%) were found to be dependent on drugs or alcohol or abusing them, according to a 2002 survey of men and women held in local jails.

The rate of substance dependence or abuse varied by gender, race, and offense:

  • 44% of men and 52% of women were dependent on drugs or alcohol.
  • 78% of white, 64% of black, and 59% of Hispanic inmates were dependent on drugs or alcohol or abusing them.
  • Inmates convicted of burglary had the highest rate of substance dependence or abuse (85%), followed by inmates convicted of DWI/DUI (82%), weapons violations (79%), and drug possession (75%).
  • The lowest rate of substance dependence or abuse was among inmates convicted of sexual assault (50%).

Of those inmates held in local jails, only convicted offenders were asked if they had used drugs in the time leading up to their current offense. In 2002, 55% of convicted jail inmates reported they had used illegal drugs during the month before their offense, unchanged from 1996.

  • marijuana use in the month before the offense increased from 36% to 37%;
  • stimulants increased from 10% to 11%; and
  • cocaine or crack use decreased from 23% to 21%.

A higher percentage of jail inmates in 2002 than in 1996 reported regular drug use (used drugs at least once a week for at least a month).

Source: BJS, Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 209588, July 2005.

Prior drug use of jail inmates, by type of drug, 2002 and 1996
    Ever used drugs Ever used drugs regularly/a Used drugs in
the month before
the offense
Used drugs
at the time
of the offense
Type of drug 2002   1996   2002  
1996
  2002   1996   2002   1996  

  Any drug 82.2 % 82.4 % 68.7 % 64.2 % 54.6 % 54.0 % 28.8 % 34.9 %
Marijuana 75.7   78.2   58.5   54.9   37.5   36.0   13.6   18.0
Cocaine or crack 48.1   50.4   30.9   31.0   20.7   22.8   10.6   14.3
Heroin or opiates 20.7   23.9   12.0   11.8   7.8   7.9   4.1   5.1  
Depressants/b 21.6   29.9   10.7   10.4   6.1   5.3   2.4   2.2
Stimulants/c 27.8   33.6   17.1   16.5   11.4   9.6   5.2   5.6
Hallucinogens/d 32.4   32.2   13.4   10.5   5.9   4.2   1.6   1.4
Inhalants 12.7   16.8   4.2   4.8   1.0   0.9   0.2   0.3

a/Includes all inmates with a current conviction or with a prior conviction, but no new conviction for the current charge.
b/Used drugs at least once week for a month.
c/Includes barbiturates, tranquilizers, and Quaaludes.
d/Includes amphetamines and methamphetamines.
e/Includes LSD, Ecstasy, and PCP.
Source: BJS, Substance Dependence, Abuse, and Treatment of Jail Inmates, 2002, NCJ 209588, July 2005.

Over three-quarters of DWI offenders in jail reported using drugs in the past. Among jail inmates held for DWI, marijuana (73%) and cocaine-based drugs including crack (41%) were the most commonly used drugs. Thirty percent of those in jail reported drug use in the month prior to arrest.

Domestic disputes were also one of the most commonly reported experiences associated with drug use:

  • 25% of jail inmates said they had arguments with their family, friends, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend while under the influence of drugs.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 of those in jail for DWI had been arrested or held in a police station as a result of their drug use.
  • About 10% of DWI offenders in jail had lost a job because of their drug use.
  • About 15% of jail inmates said they had been in a physical fight while under the influence of drugs.

    Source: BJS, DWI Offenders under Correctional Supervision,
    NCJ 172212, June 1999.

In the month before the offense, 82% of jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to 70% of those without, had used alcohol or drugs. By specific type of substance, jail inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of alcohol use in the month before the offense than drug use. Among local jail inmates who had a mental health problem, 81% reported alcohol use in the month before the offense and 62% drug use.

Inmates who had a mental health problem had higher rates of drug use in the month before the offense, compared to those without a mental problem. More than 6 in 10 jail inmates with a mental problem had used drugs in the month before the offense, compared to slightly more than 4 in 10 inmates without a mental problem. Marijuana was the most common drug inmates said they had used in the month before the offense.

Among jail inmates who had a mental health problem, in the month before the offense:

  • more than two-fifths (43%) had used marijuana or hashish.
  • a quarter (24%) had used cocaine or crack.
  • an eighth (12%) had used methamphetamines.
Source: BJS, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, NCJ 213600, September 2006.

In local jails, veterans (81%) reported levels of prior drug use similar to nonveterans (83%), but lower levels (44%) of drug use in the month prior to the offense than nonveterans (50%) in 1997.

Source: BJS, Veterans in Prison or Jail, NCJ 178888, January 2000. 

State and Federal prison inmates

In 1991, 60% of federal prisoners reported prior drug use, compared to 79% of state prisoners. In 1997 this gap in prior drug use was narrowed, as the percentage of federal inmates reporting past drug use rose to 73%, compared to 83% of state inmates. By 2004 this gap was almost closed, as state prisoner reports of lifetime drug use stayed at 83%, while federal inmates rose to 79%. This increase was mostly due to a rise in the percentage of federal prisoners reporting prior use of marijuana (from 53% in 1991 to 71% in 2004), cocaine/crack (from 37% in 1991 to 44% in 2004), and hallucinogens (from 15% in 1991 to 26% in 2004).

The proportion of state prison inmates reporting the past use of cocaine or crack declined slightly between 1997 (49%) and 2004 (47%). Marijuana use (78%) remained stable since 1997 (77%), and remained the most commonly used drug. Past use of opiates, including heroin (23%) remained almost unchanged since 1997 (24%). Past use of methamphetamine rose from 19% in 1997 to 23% in 2004.

Although the proportion of federal prisoners held for drug offenses dropped from 63% in 1997 to 55% in 2004, the percentage of all federal inmates who reported using drugs in the month before the offense rose from 45% to 50%.

Drug use by state prisoners, 1997 and 2004
    Percent of inmates who had ever used drugs
   
Type of drug 2004 1997

  Any drug 83 % 83 %
Marijuana 78 77
Cocaine/crack 47 49
Heroin/opiates 23 24
Depressants 21 24
Stimulants 29 28
Hallucinogens 33 29

Source: BJS, Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004, NCJ 213530, October 2006.

Nineteen percent of state inmates told interviewers that they had been physically or sexually abused before their current offense. For state prisoners reporting prior abuse, 89% had ever used illegal drugs: 76% of the men and 80% of the women had used them regularly. Of those not reporting prior abuse, 82% had used illegal drugs: 68% of the men and 65% of the women had used them regularly.

Illegal drug use was more common among abused state prison inmates than among those who said they were not abused. An estimated 76% of abused men and 80% of abused women had used illegal drugs regularly, compared to 68% of men and 65% of women who had not been abused.

Current and past violent offenses and past drug use, by whether abused before admission to state prison, 1997
  Percent of state prison inmates  
Offense history
and drug use

Reported being abused   Reported being not abused

Total Males Females   Total   Males   Females  

Current or past violent offense 70.4 % 76.5 % 45.0 % 60.2 % 61.2 % 29.1 %
                         
Used an illegal drug                        
Ever 88.6 % 88.5 % 88.9 % 81.8 % 81.9 % 77.4 %
Ever regularly 76.3   75.5   79.7   67.9   67.9   65.0  
In month before offense 61.4   59.7   68.6   55.3   55.3   54.0  
At time of offense 39.6   38.0   46.2   30.7   30.7   32.0  

Source: BJS, Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and
Probationers
,
NCJ 172879, April 1999.
         

About 8 in 10 state prisoners who had a mental health problem said they had used alcohol or drugs in the month before the offense, compared to 7 in 10 without a mental problem. State prisoners who had a mental health problem had similar rates of drug (63%) or alcohol (62%) use in the month before the offense.

State prisoners who had a mental health problem (62%) had a higher rate of drug use in the month offense compared to those without a mental health problem (49%). Marijuana was the most common drug inmates said they had used in the month before the offense.

Among state prisoners who had a mental health problem, in the month before the offense:

  • 46% had used marijuana or hashish.
  • 24% had used cocaine or crack.
  • 13% had used methamphetamines.

Source: BJS, Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates, NCJ 213600, September 2006.

In 1997 a majority of parents in state prison reported some type of prior drug use --

  • 85% reported any past drug use
  • 58% reported use in the month before the current offense.

Nonparents in state prison reported slightly lower levels of prior drug use --

  • 80% reported any past drug use
  • 55% reported use in the month before the current offense.
Percent of parents in state prison who used drugs in the month before the current offense, 1997


Marijuana 39 %
Cocaine/crack 27  
Heroin/opiates 10  
Stimulates 9  
Depressants 5  
Hallucinogens 3  
Inhalants 1  

In 1997 mothers in state prison were more likely than fathers to report drug use in the month before their offense: 65% for mothers and 58% for fathers. Cocaine/crack was the most common drug used: 45% for mothers and 26% for fathers.

Nearly half of parents in federal prison reported using drugs in the month before their offense and 3 in 4 had ever used drugs. Nearly a quarter of parents in federal prison were under the influence of drugs when committing their offense. Aside from marijuana use (higher among fathers), mothers and fathers in federal prison reported similar drug use histories.

Source: BJS, Incarcerated Parents and Their Children, NCJ 182335, August 2000.

79% of veterans in state prison reported prior drug use during their military service.

Prior drug use of veterans in state prison, 1997

    Percent of veterans who reported prior drug use
   
Drug use Combat   Noncombat

Any prior drug use 69 % 82 %
In the month before 30   49
Prior use of intravenous drugs 23   25  

Vietnam-era veterans drug use histories varied little from Post-Cold War-era veterans in state prison --

  • Equal percentages of Vietnam-era and Post-Cold War-era (72%) veterans reported prior drug use.
  • 37% of Vietnam-era veterans and 44% of Post-Cold War-era used drugs in the month before the offense.
  • 21% of Vietnam-era veterans and 20% of Post-Cold War-era veterans used drugs at the time their offense.

Source: BJS, Veterans in State and Federal Prison, NCJ 217199, May 2004.



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