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CRIME

CRIME

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DrugsAlthough drugs have always been available in the United States, it could be argued that their use has increased, and that this might be associated with crime. Most of the research on crime and drugs focuses on psychoactive drugs, which alter conscious awareness or perception. Such drugs (as well as some others) may result in (1) psychological dependency (when the person craves a drug); (2) addiction (the body becomes physically dependent on the drug and withdrawal from the drug causes physical and psychological symptoms); and (3) tolerance (greater doses are necessary to produce the same effect).Table 1 provides a common pharmacological classification of psychoactive drugs of interest to criminologists.Table 10.1. Pharmacological classification of drugsType of drug Characteristics Common drugsCentral nervous system depressantsRemove social inhibitions, relieve anxiety, impair judgmentAlcohol, barbiturates, minor tranquillizersNarcotics Highly addicting, relieve pain (analgesic), euphoriaHeroin, morphine, codeine, and DemerolCentral nervous system stimulantsStimulates alertness, wakefulness, euphoriaAmphetamines, cocaine and its derivatives, nicotineHallucinogens Non-addicting, hallucinations, sense of timelessness, mystical insightsLSD, Mescaline, PsilocybinPhencyclidine Non-addicting, mentalconfusion, unfocused aggression, pain reliefPCP1Marijuana Effects dependent on the doseThe United States has developed a rather elaborate classificationscheme for classifying drugs in its criminal codes. Federal codes use this scheme, but most states have also adopted it. Drugs are classifiedfrom Schedule I drugs to Schedule V drugs, with I the most restricted (banned altogether), and Schedule V the least restricted. There are a variety of regulations regarding these restrictions. Sometimes, for example, a physician prescribes a drug that allows the patient to get as many refills as he or she needs. If it is a narcotic, however, the physician will prescribe a certain amount, and if the patient wants more, he must consult with him/her again. Thus drugs vary in terms ofthe restrictions placed on them.The classification scheme is theoretically based on two factors: (1) the medical usage of the drug; and (2) its potential for abuse. LSD, for example, can be abused and potentially has some harmful effects (people have been known to inadvertently hurt themselves under the influence), and has no known medical usage (although some people claim to have brilliant insights while tripping). As such, it is a ScheduleI drug. Narcotics have a high potential for abuse, as they are very addicting. They have an important medical use, however, as painkillers. Most of them are legal, but with tight restrictions imposed on their usage and on the physicians who prescribe them. Heroin is 2not legal, and a Schedule I drug, because it is highly addicting, and therationale is that there are other narcotics that can be used for medical purposes. This distinction has been somewhat controversial, because morphine and Demerol are also very addicting, and some researchers believe that heroin is a more effective painkiller than other narcotics for terminally ill patients. The classification of other drugs are sometimes hotly debated--for example, some citizens have argued thatmarijuana is not as serious a threat in terms of abuse as has been publicized, and has been found useful in terms of certain medical treatments (for example, glaucoma).Thus, there are a number of criticisms of the current classification system. It should be noted that alcohol does not appear in the federal code, as it is a legal drug that is regulated by city and state statutes. Some critics have pointed out that if alcohol were to beclassified using the federal rationale, it would be a Schedule I drug. Its potential for abuse is rather high (statistically, most of us have personal knowledge of one or more people who are alcoholics, or on their way to alcoholism). Additionally its medical usage (despite the phrase "for medicinal purposes") is really quite limited. Although it canbe used as a painkiller, narcotics are much more effective. Considerable effort has been spent classifying drugs both from a pharmacological standpoint as well as legally. There is a clear link between drug use and criminality. The focus of attention of the public 3has tended to be on illegal drugs. However, there is a clear link between alcohol use and crime, and this is not a particularly recent phenomenon. One of the reasons London developed the first police department was because the public acquired access to alcohol (specifically gin), and the volunteer watchmen were no longer able to control the citizens of the city. A number of studies have examined thelink between alcohol and crime. An early Philadelphia study found thatalcohol was involved in more than two-thirds of homicides, and in about 40% of rape cases. Surveys of prison inmates have indicated that they report drinking more than other young men, and in one study25% of the inmates admitted to having "got drunk and hurt someone," within the last three years.Most of the research in recent years has focused on the link between drugs and crime. A fairly substantial percentage of prison inmates admit to the use of illegal drugs. A California study, for example, found that 40% of the inmates admitted to using "heavy drugs" in the last three years. There are obvious self-report problems with these studies. The drug forecasting studies (DUF studies) do urinetesting of arrestees (for research purposes only) in selected urban areas, avoiding the problems of self-report. These studies have indicated that about 75% of arrestees have traces of illegal drugs in their systems. Currently heroin and crack have been most associated with chronic serious offending.4Three major hypotheses have been advanced to explain the drugs-crime connection. The psychopharmological hypothesis suggests that drugs contribute to crime by reducing inhibitions (as in the case of alcohol), or stimulating aggressive behavior (as in the case of stimulants such as amphetamines and cocaine). Crimes of passion often occur while people are under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence indicates that even when crimes are planned, many offenders use drugs in order to obtain the courage to undertake the activity.A second hypothesis, the economic compulsivity hypothesis, is based on


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