BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Drugs and crime
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Drugs are related to crime in multiple ways. Most directly, it is a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute drugs classified as having a potential for abuse. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines are examples of drugs classified to have abuse potential. Drugs are also related to crime through the effects they have on the user’s behavior and by generating violence and other illegal activity in connection with drug trafficking. The following scheme summarizes the various ways that drugs and crime are related. See Drug and Crime Facts

Drugs and crime relationship Definition Examples
Drug-defined offenses Violations of laws prohibiting or regulating the possession, distribution, or manufacture of illegal drugs. Drug possession or use. Marijuana cultivation. Methamphetamine production. Cocaine, heroin, or marijuana sales.
Drug-related Offenses in which drug's pharmacologic effects contribute; offenses are motivated by the user's need for money to support continued use; and offenses connected to drug distribution itself. Violent behavior resulting from drug effects. Stealing to get money to buy drugs. Violence against rival drug dealers.
Drug-using lifestyle Drug use and crime are common aspects of a deviant lifestyle. The likelihood and frequency of involvement in illegal activity is increased because drug users may not participate in the legitimate economy and are exposed to situations that encourage crime. A life orientation with an emphasis on short-term goals supported by illegal activities. Opportunities to offend resulting from contacts with offenders and illegal markets. Criminal skills learned from other offenders.

Publications & Products

Drugs and Crime Facts, 1989 Victims report that they believe their assailants were under the influence of drugs or alcohol in about 36 percent of violent crime incidents.

Drugs and Crime Facts, 1988 This report summarizes recent research on the use of illegal drugs by criminal offenders, trends in this use, the prosecution and sentencing of drug law violators, public opinion about drugs, and drug use in the general population.

Terms & Definitions

Drug possession Includes possession of an illegal drug, but excludes possession with intent to sell.
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