An Interdisciplinary Examination of Drug and Alcohol Abuse and Violent Behaviour

Dylan Brown

CRIM 314 C100

March 15, 2015


























Within scientific literature, there are often claims that a statistical associations exists

between drug and alcohol consumption and criminal behaviour; specifically, crimes of a violent

nature (cite). However, there is a limited amount of material that incorporates an inclusive

dialogue of several different, diverse disciplines and their findings pertaining to the complex

relationship between substance abuse and violence. This paper aims to investigate the links

between alcohol, illegal drugs and criminal behaviour, focusing primarily on violence, while also

integrating a broad range of academic perspectives in order to further outline the multifaceted

connection between violence and drug and alcohol abuse.

Drug And Alcohol Abuse And Violence: Overview

The majority of drug and alcohol consumption amongst individual does not usually involve

violence or violent crimes (Fagan, 1990). Nevertheless, substances such as alcohol and illegal

drugs (such as cannabis, cocaine, opioids, amphetamines and hallucinogens) are usually present

in both the perpetrators of violent crimes and their victims in many criminal events (Fagan,

1990). Even though substance abuse has been linked with violent conduct for generations,

studies have struggled in documenting contributory relations due to the numerous variables that

are involved in evaluating the information (Fagan, 1990).

Connections between drug and alcohol use and violent behaviour are multifaceted and

symptomatic rather than conclusive and irrefutable (Roth, 1994). Additionally, there exists

inadequate analysis into the precise casual function that substances contribute in the performance

of violence acts (Fagan, 1990). However, the increased incidences of violence accompanied by

substance misuse highlights the importance of studying the linkage of interacting practices that

associate violence and drug and alcohol abuse (Roth, 1994).

Fagan (1990) outlines cultural, environmental, situational and social contexts as examples

of different factors that can influence the potential for violent acts to correlate with the

consumption of drugs and alcohol. Conversely, the Fagan
occurrence of substance use within acts of

violence does not automatically infer that drugs or alcohol affected the perpetrator or the victim's

behaviour (Fagan, 1990). It is important to identify that a reaction to any substance will be based

primarily on the history, psychology, physiology, and cultural and personal elements of the

individual ingesting the substance (Roth, 1994).

Explanations for Types Of Violence

The correlation between substance abuse and acts of violence has been explained throughout

the literature in three fundamental ways. "Systemic violence" refers to the hostile forms of

interaction within the structure of drug distribution and use (Goldstein, 1985). Some examples of

systemic violence are the use of violence and/or threats to impose rules within a drug-dealing

organization and hostility amongst drug users over substances and drug paraphernalia (cite,

Goldstein, 1985).

A second theory used to describe the relationship between drugs and crimes of violence is

identified as the "economic-compulsive model" (Roth, 1994). This model is associated with the

physical attainment of drugs, and describes acts of intentional violence in which drug users

participate in violent crimes in order to accumulate money to be able to fund their habit (Roth,

1994). Goldstein (1985) states that crimes committed for economic reasons are most often a

product of the social environment or condition in which the offender is situated; for example, a

person may commit a violent crime due to an exacerbated state of drug-induced nervousness

(Goldstein, 1985). Heroin and cocaine are the two most frequently connected substances to

economic compulsive violence due to their cost ((Roth, 1994).

Finally, a third type of substance related violence is an act performed while under the effect

of substances (Goldstein, 1985). This type of violence is labeled as "psychopharmacological

violence" and is the result of short or long-term drug use that creates intensified, paranoia, or

violent behaviour (Goldstein, 1985). Psychopharmacological violence may involve drug use by

either the offender or the victim, and can also happen when the use of substances coincides with

modifications or impairments in cognitive tasks, exaggerated emotional states, or disturbances of

hormonal or biological functions that encourage or restrict violence (Goldstein, 1985).

Stimulants (amphetamines and cocaine), barbiturates, PCP, and alcohol are the substances most

often attributed to psychopharmacological violence, while drugs such as marijuana and opioids

(heroin and tranquilizers) have been claimed to possibly temporarily relieve an