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Drug use and policy

Last updated on 16.05.2020

Goldstein mentioned that withdrawal symptoms that drugs users go through, can be a factor in them committing violent crime. In his study, he found that prostitutes who were in the process of becoming clean, would result to more violent ways to get money from their client opposed to less violent ways if they were not going through withdrawals (Goldstein 1979). The withdrawal effect suggested that users who were trying to quit and therefore suffered withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, drugs will have a greater effect on the individual, suggesting they are more likely to commit violent crime (McBride and Swartz 1990). This because they may be more irritable and more unsettled while going through the withdrawal stage (ibid). These studies show support for the psychopharmological model in understanding the drug crime nexus.

There are studies that demonstrate sustenance for Goldstein’s systematic model in understanding the drug crime nexus. One study found 52% of murder victims were killed because of involvement in drug activity, and nearly all the victims had drugs on them at the time of death (Tardiff et al. 1986). A range of drugs were found on the victims such as morphine and cocaine (ibid). A study in Philadelphia found that the majority of people who had died as a result of murder, were drug users (Zahn and Bencivengo, 1974). This was shown when it was found that approximately 31% of the total murder rates were linked to the use of drugs (ibid) supporting Goldstein’s model. A study conducted in 1969 found that heroin addicts committed crime to fund the high price of the drug, thus fitting into the economic compulsive model (Preble and Casey, 1969). Furthermore, the drug heroin was found to lead users to commit predominately non-violent crime, to get the money for the drug (Gottfredson 2008). These two studies show support for the economic compulsion model suggested as they propose that the drug users commit crime to fund their drug habit. In summary, studies conducted over the years that have proposed that the use of illegal drugs by individuals can increase the chance of committing crime (Chaiken & Chaiken, 1990), thus supporting Goldstein’s tripartite frame network for understanding the drug crime link.

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Whilst the tripartite framework is widely acknowledged, there are some limitations in helping to understand the drug crime nexus. This section of the paper will critically evaluate its usefulness. One limitations that has arisen is the great emphasis that ‘correlation leads to causation’ and so the framework can be seen as being deterministic and unidirectional (Bennett and Holloway 2009). The tripartite framework be seen as one distinct ideology- drugs cause crime. However, research has shown that the link is not monocausal and numerous factors link them together. The model also fails to be applicable in different subcultures. Some factors that have been neglected by the model in understanding the drug crime nexus include poly or multiple drug use, the level of drug use environmental factors which can influence types of crime committed. Research has shown that Goldstein’s limitations lie where his concept is a simple cause and effect model but recent literature suggests models such as Goldstein’s framework are mono-causal and unidirectional. A limitation of the tripartite framework is the ‘crime leads to drug use’ notion. A study found that the more reward individuals had from committing crime, the more they would use drugs (Parker, 1996). Other studies have shown that individuals committed crime before they started using drugs (Burr, 1987; Bean and Wilkinson, 1988). Looking at external factors such as the economic climate, people commit crime to live the life they want and then through these criminal actions they are exposed to drugs, either buying or selling (Burr 1987). This further highlights the mono-casual and uni-directional idea embedded within the tripartite framework.

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