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Case Study: Criminological Theory On Drug Use

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Criminological Theory on Drug Use

Crimes relating to drugs take place because of the illicit use of drugs undoubtedly. The statistics of the United Kingdom (UK) show that recreational use of drugs and crime has a significant relationship in between (Bean, 2004). Mainly, we are discussing the association of crime and use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, and this topic have a major area of debate and research. However, the nature of the relationship between crime and drug is not clear till date and it is a topic for many discussions Griffiths, Mounteney and Laniel, 2012). Drug-related crime includes the acts of crime committed by those who used drugs or related to selling or buying the drugs and excludes violations of the drug laws (Bean, 2014).

Goldstein distinguished the drug-induced crime into three types (Duke, 2013). Economic- compulsive crime means the crimes done by one due to the need of additional income for funding the drug purchases that are made necessary for habitual use of drugs. Psychopharmacological is the crime generating by the reaction of the drug in one’s brain, for that one loose self-control or the capacity for decision making, or become violent due to the external provocation. Systematic violence is the feature of the functioning of illicit markets, where the legal contract enforcement is impracticable (Wood, Greene and Dargan, 2013). It is to be noted that economic-compulsive crime can be related to any types of consumption, for not only the illegal drugs but some people also commit the crime for money to purchase tobacco, clothes or alcohol. For this use of unusual medicines, there is a long-run indirect effect can happen which is hard to evaluate. For example, use of illicit drugs may lead to impairing of intellectual ability, effect the achievements in education and the employment prospects, etc. (Martin et al. 2013).

Categories of Drugs

The Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 categorises drugs into three classes, namely:

Class A: This category includes cocaine and crack, LSD, heroin, methamphetamine (crystal meth), ecstasy, methadone, magic mushrooms that contain the ester of psilocin and any injected Class B drug. Class A drugs are characterised as most dangerous among all the classes.

Class B: This includes codeine, amphetamine (not methamphetamine), ketamine, cannabis and barbiturates. In this class, we also find the drugs like mephedrone, methedrone, methylone and MDPV, which are controlled by the Class B drugs since 2010.

Class C: We can describe minor tranquillisers, anabolic steroids, GHB and GBL, and khat in the Class C category (Monaghan, 2012).


Representation of the crime

The Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 (Act) proposes prevention of drug usage for the non-medical purpose. The Act controls both medicinal drugs and the drugs, which are not in use currently. This Act deals with the controlled drugs which defines a series of offences including the unlawful supply and possession of the drugs. For enforcement of the Act, the police have the extraordinary powers to search, stop and detain any person on a reasonable suspicion (Duke, 2013).

Offences under the Act

The Misuse of Drugs Act includes the following offences:

Possession of the Controlled Drugs

Possession of drugs intending to supply to the other person

Cultivation, production or production of the controlled drugs

Supply or proposal to supply the controlled drugs to another person

Export or import of controlled drugs

Allow any premises occupied by one to use for consumption of some of the controlled drugs, such as smoking of opium or cannabis, or production and supply of any controlled drugs

Certain controlled drugs may be consumed, which can be obtained by the prescription of a doctor. In that case, the possession is legal.



Some drugs that are covered by other legislations are not treated as the exception under the Act, namely, alcohol, GBL, poppers, tobacco, solvents, minor tranquilities and anabolic steroids (Romero, Magaloni and Díaz-Cayeros, 2014).


Sentences for the offences under the Act can differ as per the nature of the crimes. For possession of Class A drugs, one can be punished with imprisonment for 7 years and a fine, and for the supply, one can be imprisoned for life and pay the fine. If one person is arrested for possession of Class B drugs, then he or she can be punished with imprisonment for 5 years and pay fine, and for the supply of the same, one is punished with imprisonment for 14 years and with fine. In the case of possession of Class C drugs, one can be imprisoned for 2 years and pay the fine. For the supply of the Class C drugs, one can be punished the same as for the Class B drugs. The maximum sentence differs as per the character of the offence (Reuter, 2013).

2005- Drugs Act

To prove the offence under this Act, if the suspect found in possession of drugs greater than the quantity required for personal use, then the burden of proof of such possession shall lie on the suspect. The defendant has to prove that he is not intended to supply the drugs.

The police have the right of compulsory drug-testing of the arrested persons where they have rational grounds to believe that an offence related to Class A drugs involved (Walters, 2014).

The Medicines Act 1968

This act oversees the supply and manufacture of medicine. This act includes three categories of medical drugs. The most restricted are prescription only medicine (Appelbe and Wingfield 2013). Pharmacists can sell pharmacy medicines without a prescription. General sales list medicines may be sold not only from a pharmacy but in any shop (Pierce et al. 2015).

Customs and Excise Management Act 1979

Along with the Misuses of Drugs Act, this Act penalises the unlawful import or export of the controlled drugs.

Road Traffic Act 1972

The offence for which one can be charged under this Act is while driving an automobile being in a poor condition to drive due to drugs or drinks. The drugs included prescribed medicines, solvents or illegal drugs (Appelbe and Wingfield 2013).

Drug Trafficking Act 1994

An offence relating to this Act includes selling of instruments or articles that use for the preparation of the controlled drugs, like snorting kits of cocaine. The Act authorises seizure of the assets or the income of the person who may be held guilty of the drug trafficking (Newburn, 2012).

Crime and Disorder Act 1998

This Act initiates enforcement of drug treatment and the testing orders, for those people who are convicted of the offences committed due to continuing their use of drugs (Facchin and Margola, 2015).

Statistics of Illicit drugs use

In this report, we are discussing the trends and extent of unlawful use of drugs among the adults aged from 16 to 59 years in the year 2014/15 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (Newburn, 2012). The survey measured the level of the drugs used by the person during his/her lifetime, except cannabis.


Last year drug use among adults and young adults

Approximately 1 in 12 (8.6%) adults aged between 16 to 59 took an illicit drug in the last year, which equated to about 2.8 million people. The drug use level lowered than the survey report of the decade ago. Around 1 in every 5 (19.4%) young adults in the age group of 16 to 24 had taken the illicit drugs (Degenhardt and Hall 2012). The proportion is more than the wider age group people consumed, equated about 1.2 million people.

As per the 2014/15 CSEW, Class A drugs had taken by 3.2% of the adults aged 16 to 59 years, which is equivalent to over one million people (Degenhardt and Hall 2012). The use of Class A drugs is strong and has a trend of long-term use over the last few years. Since 2009/10, one considerable change was the fall in 2012/13, and then a subsequent rise in 2013/14 return the use of the drug in the previous level.

Trends and extent of individual drug use

(a)    Cannabis

Cannabis found to be the most used drugs in the last year. 6.7 percent adults are aged about 16 to 59 years used cannabis, which is similar to 6.6 per cent to the survey of 2013/14. Between 1998 and 2003/04, there is a stable position in the use of cannabis at about 10 percent adults. There was a fall to 6.5 per cent in the year 2009/10 in the use of cannabis and since then, the percentage of drug use has been relatively flat, between six to seven percent (Degenhardt and Hall 2012).

Among the young adults of 16 to 24 years age group, use of cannabis is most familiar with a use of 16.3 percent in the last year. There is no significant statistical difference from 2013/14 (15.1%). There is a steady increase in the use of cannabis since 2012/13.

(b)    Powder cocaine

Powder cocaine is the second most commonly used drugs (2.3% in the 2014/15 survey) in the age group of 16 to 59 years in the recent years. However, in the age group of 16 to 24 years, powder cocaine is the third most commonly used drugs (4.8%). Compared to the previous year, there are no significant changes in using of powder cocaine in any of the age groups. The use of powder cocaine among the age group of 16 to 59 years sharply ascended between surveys of 1996 and 2000 (0.6 to 2.0%) and the increasing rate among the 16 to 24 years age group increased from 1.3% to 5.2%.

(c)    Ecstasy

The level of use of ecstasy in the age group of 16 to 59 years is 1.7 percent in the survey of 2014/15, which is similar to the last year (1.6%). The proportion of using ecstasy in the age group of 16 to 59 years has fluctuated between 1 and 2 per cent since the surveys began in 1996.

The ecstasy use increased from 3.9 per cent to 5.4 per cent in the age group of 16 to 24 years in the last year, as shown in the surveys of the 2013/14 and 2014/15. This data had shown that there is an increase of 95,000 people from the last year.

(d)    Other illicit drugs

A small statistical increase found in the use of magic mushrooms for the adults of 16 to 59 years from 0.4% in the 2013/14 survey to 0.5% in the 2014/15 survey. Similarly, no statistically significant changes found in the use of drugs among young adults aged 16 to 24 years, except the increase in the use of ecstasy.

(e) Khat

Khat became a Class C controlled drug on 24th June 2014, for that only last year’s khat usage included in the survey. Use of khat has fallen to 0.04 percent in the last year among the adults aged 16 to 59 years (, 2016) .

Theories on Criminology

Three models exist to sustain that some crimes guide to the drug use. Firstly, the subcultural theory states that the individuals who are involved in subcultures of criminal nature, supposed to contribute to the antisocial and criminal behaviour comprising the use of drugs (Akers, 2013). Secondly, the situational control theory states the crime that permits the promotion of the unrestricted conduct. The third theory is of self-medication. This theory advocates the underlying problems of one individual, which is responsible for the criminal actions. By the way of having the drugs, the person wanted to deal with those problems (Akers, 2013).


The theory that the crime occurs because of drug use, as with the view that because of drug use crime arose, this emerges too simple. No evidence supports the unidirectional casual association between the offence and drug use (Braakmann and Jones, 2014). For this reason, the alternative theories developed that there is a complex interaction of casual events which leads to the link between the crime and drug use (Clutterbuck, 2013).

The casual web theory has not supported the idea of crime leads to the use of drug and vice versa. This theory has the view that there is an association between the crime and drug use and both are interconnected that affected by the alternative variables (Jennings et al. 2014).

Bean (2004) proposed four theories relating to the casual web model. Firstly, the general derivation theory states that the crime and use of drug extend from the corresponding source, that include the anti-social syndrome. Secondly, the reciprocal models suggest that the relationship between crime and drug use looks like bi-directional, means both mutually reinforced as they are dependent on each other. Thirdly, the spurious or co-morbidity model advocates that drug and the crime are unison, but it always occur by chance. At last, the policy model suggesting the connection between the crime and the drug use resulting in the impact of the policy of criminal justice (Fagan et al. 2014).

There are numerous studies, which attempt to establish the relationship between the drugs and crime, but they failed to explain any common link between these two (Bright, 2011). The association of drugs and crime is supported by the notion of presentation of a complex system of interactions. This theory identifies that some people use drugs for the commitment of the crime, but to create any relationships between the two is an extremely complex process (Voisin et al. 2012). 

Drug policy of the government over the last decade focuses on four main issues, such as supply reduction, prevention of the use of a drug, the treatment given to the problematic drug users and enforcement of the drug laws (Heal, 2015). Treatment of drug addicts included harm reduction measures, and aware the number of people about the substitution treatment. Still the supply of the drugs cannot be controlled by the government of the UK (Monaghan, 2014). The prices of drugs ascending day by day. Though the prices declined, still the activity of drug selling remains very attractive. In a recent study involving the interviews of incarcerated drug dealers reveals that there are several ways of dealing the drugs and the financial return relates to high rates. It is not evident that the return from drug dealing is more than the compensation of the participants who has the risk of arrest by the data alone (Martinez et al. 2014). This study states that there are low levels of violence in the drug markets.


In a recent finding, there is a statement that the theories support the unidirectional casual relationship between the crime and drug use became over-simplistic. On the contrary, from the evidence, we can find that the association of the crime and drug use is the complicated method, which involves a lot of interactions (Moore and Measham, 2012). Despite the remittance taken by the government of the UK and the substantial investments, the UK occupied the top position in the list of the European countries for the use of drugs and its dependence. The central point of the drug policy of the UK is that there is a reasonable evidence influencing the drug users or the dependant of drug addicts. We did not find any evidence that for the enforcement of the law, or the prevention methods made any changes in the use of drugs. Policies only focus on just one part of the crime and drug link, but the other part of the relationship is ignored. For that reason, the policies are not favourable (Stevens, 2011). There is a need for future research that has the particular communications between the relationship of the crime and drug use. The researchers will assist in improving the effective policies dealing with this issue.



Akers, R.L., 2013. Criminological theories: Introduction and evaluation. Routledge.

Appelbe, G.E. and Wingfield, J., 2013. Dale and Appelbe's Pharmacy and Medicines Law. Pharmaceutical Press.

Bean, P., 2014. Drugs and crime. Routledge.

Braakmann, N. and Jones, S., 2014. Cannabis depenalisation, drug consumption and crime–Evidence from the 2004 cannabis declassification in the UK. Social Science & Medicine, 115, pp.29-37.

Bright, D. (2011). Drugs of Abuse Volume II: Drugs and Crime. Drug and Alcohol Review, 30(2), pp.230-231.

Clutterbuck, R., 2013. Terrorism, Drugs & Crime in Europe After 1992. Routledge.

Degenhardt, L. and Hall, W., 2012. Extent of illicit drug use and dependence, and their contribution to the global burden of disease. The Lancet, 379(9810), pp.55-70.

Duke, K., 2013. From crime to recovery the reframing of British drugs policy?. Journal of drug issues, 43(1), pp.39-55.

Duke, K., 2013. From crime to recovery the reframing of British drugs policy?. Journal of drug issues, 43(1), pp.39-55.

Facchin, F. and Margola, D., 2015. Researching Lived Experience of Drugs and Crime A Phenomenological Study of Drug-Dependent Inmates.Qualitative health research, p.1049732315617443.

Fagan, A.A., Van Horn, M.L., Hawkins, J.D. and Jaki, T., 2013. Differential effects of parental controls on adolescent substance use: For whom is the family most important?. Journal of quantitative criminology, 29(3), pp.347-368., (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016].

Griffiths, P., Mounteney, J. and Laniel, L., 2012. Understanding changes in heroin availability in Europe over time: emerging evidence for a slide, a squeeze and a shock. Addiction, 107(9), pp.1539-1540.

Heal, A., 2015. Journeys into Drugs and Crime: Jamaican Men Involved in the UK Drugs Trade. Palgrave Macmillan.

Jennings, W.G., Piquero, A.R., Farrington, D.P., Ttofi, M.M., Crago, R.V. and Theobald, D., 2014. The Intersections of Drug Use Continuity With Nonviolent Offending and Involvement in Violence Over the Life Course Findings From the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, p.1541204014559524.

Martin, N.K., Hickman, M., Hutchinson, S.J., Goldberg, D.J. and Vickerman, P., 2013. Combination interventions to prevent HCV transmission among people who inject drugs: modeling the impact of antiviral treatment, needle and syringe programs, and opiate substitution therapy. Clinical infectious diseases, 57(suppl 2), pp.S39-S45.

Martinez, S.M., Blanco, E., Delva, J., Burrows, R., Reyes, M., Lozoff, B. and Gahagan, S., 2014. Perception of neighborhood crime and drugs increases cardiometabolic risk in Chilean adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(6), pp.718-723.

Monaghan, M., 2012. The recent evolution of UK drug strategies: From maintenance to behaviour change. People, Place & Policy Online, 6(1), pp.29-40.

Monaghan, M., 2014. Drug Policy Governance in the UK: Lessons from changes to and debates concerning the classification of cannabis under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(5), pp.1025-1030.

Moore, K. and Measham, F., 2012. The silent “G”: A case study in the production of “drugs” and “drug problems”. Contemporary Drug Problems,39(3), pp.565-590.

Newburn, T. ed., 2012. Handbook of policing. Routledge.

Pierce, M., Hayhurst, K., Bird, S.M., Hickman, M., Seddon, T., Dunn, G. and Millar, T., 2015. Quantifying crime associated with drug use among a large cohort of sanctioned offenders in England and Wales. Drug and alcohol dependence, 155, pp.52-59.

Reuter, P., 2013. Can tobacco control endgame analysis learn anything from the US experience with illegal drugs?. Tobacco control, 22(suppl 1), pp.i49-i51.

Romero, V., Magaloni, B. and Díaz-Cayeros, A., 2014. The Mexican war on drugs: Crime and the limits of government persuasion. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, p.edu009.

Stevens, A. (2011). Are drugs to blame?. Criminal Justice Matters, 83(1), pp.24-25.

Voisin, D.R., Tan, K., Tack, A.C., Wade, D. and DiClemente, R., 2012. Examining parental monitoring as a pathway from community violence exposure to drug use, risky sex, and recidivism among detained youth.Journal of social service research, 38(5), pp.699-711.

Walters, G.D., 2014. Drugs, crime, and their relationships: Theory, research, practice, and policy. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Wood, D.M., Greene, S.L. and Dargan, P.I., 2013. Five-year trends in self-reported recreational drugs associated with presentation to a UK emergency department with suspected drug-related toxicity. European Journal of Emergency Medicine, 20(4), pp.263-267.


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