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Addiction and Crime

How addiction impacts society.

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It’s nearly impossible to discuss addiction without recognizing its inevitable and unfortunate link to crime. Untreated addiction not only adversely affects users and addicts, it subjects entire communities to higher crime. Addiction is strongly associated with costly and dangerous crime, including violent crime, theft and child abuse and neglect. 

Criminal justice stats link addiction to crime.

In 2003, 6.9 million adults were involved with the criminal justice system. In 1997, 70 percent of state and 57 percent of federal prisoners used drugs regularly before their incarceration.[1]  In addition, a 2002 survey revealed that 52 percent of incarcerated women and 44 percent of incarcerate men were dependent on alcohol or drugs.[2] Juvenile offenders are also prone to high levels of drug abuse. A 2000 survey of juvenile prisoners reported that about 56 percent of the boys and 40 percent of the girls tested positive for drug use at the time of their arrest.[3]

The cost of addiction-related crime.

Addiction-related crime incurs court and criminal costs, prison and legal expenses, plus foster and welfare costs. In 2002, drug abuse cost society an estimated $181 billion. A staggering $107 billion of this cost was linked to drug-related crime.  

Addiction treatment reduces crime and costs.

Luckily, successful addiction treatment is possible within the criminal justice system. Addiction treatment has been proven to reduce crime and stop the spread of intravenously contracted infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. These programs help substance-addicted criminals change their attitudes and behaviors toward drug abuse, avoid situations that trigger using and prevent relapse and crime. Not to mention, they save money. For every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs in the criminal justice system, there is a $4 to $7 decrease in the cost of drug-related crime. 
[4]  Studies also indicate that treating criminals can reduce drug addiction by 50 percent, reduce crime by 80 percent and reduce arrests by 64 percent.[5] 

Unfortunately, many addicts in the criminal justice system never receive the treatment they need. A 1997 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey found that less than 1/5 of all incarcerated criminals with substance abuse problems received proper treatment. These untreated offenders are much more likely to relapse and commit more crime, costing the public more money and overwhelming the criminal justice system.

[3] National Institute of Justice, 2003,

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse. Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. National Institutes of Health Publication No. 00-4180. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1999

[5] Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Publication No. SMA-97-3156. 1997