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Drug Addiction and Crime

The epidemic of substance abuse in young generation has assumed alarming dimensions in India. Changing cultural values, increasing economic stress and dwindling supportive bonds are leading to initiation into substance use. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) substance abuse is persistent or sporadic drug use inconsistent with or unrelated to acceptable medical practice.

The picture is grim if the world statistics on the drugs scenario is taken into account. With a turnover of around $500 billions, it is the third largest business in the world, next to petroleum and arms trade. About 190 million people all over the world consume one drug or the other.

Today, there is no part of the world that is free from the curse of drug trafficking and drug addiction. Millions of drug addicts, all over the world, are leading miserable lives, between life and death. India too is caught in this vicious circle of drug abuse, and the numbers of drug addicts are increasing day by day.

According to a UN report, One million heroin addicts are registered in India, and unofficially there are as many as five million. What started off as casual use among a minuscule population of high-income group youth in the metro has permeated to all sections of society. Inhalation of heroin alone has given way to intravenous drug use, that too in combination with other sedatives and painkillers.

This has increased the intensity of the effect, hastened the process of addiction and complicated the process of recovery. Cannabis, heroin, and Indian-produced pharmaceutical drugs are the most frequently abused drugs in India. Cannabis products, often called charas, bhang, or ganja, are abused throughout the country because it has attained some amount of religious sanctity because of its association with some Hindu deities.

Drug Addiction and Crime:

Drug addiction causes immense human distress and the illegal production and distribution of drugs have spawned crime and violence worldwide. Drug abuse is a complex phenomenon, which has various social, cultural, biological, geographical, historical and economic aspects.

Drug abuse has led to a detrimental impact on the society. It has led to increase in the crime rate. Addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs. Drugs remove inhibition and impair judgment egging one on to commit offences. Incidences of teasing, group clashes, assault and impulsive murders increase with drug abuse. Apart from affecting the financial stability, addiction increases conflicts and causes untold emotional pain for every member of the family.

Narcotic addiction and the criminality of addicts have become a major social problem. Recent studies have reported that narcotic addicts are frequently involved in criminal behaviour on a daily basis and that, consequently, some of them commit thousands of offenses per individual during their addiction careers.

Furthermore, it is now apparent that the magnitude of the crime problem associated with narcotic addiction is not only attributable to the frequency with which addicts commit 'victimless' crimes and lesser offenses, but also to the fact that many of their offenses are serious and destructive. The problem seems more and more intractable as the addiction subculture becomes increasingly embedded in society.

Narcotic addicts have not always behaved as they do today. There have been shifts and changes in patterns and characteristics. For the most part, addicts during the 1950's commonly met their need for money to buy heroin by committing petty crimes, non-violent in nature, usually crimes against property rather than against persons. Criminality often took the form of petty larceny, such as shoplifting, burglary, stealing on the job, stealing from cars, as well as 'con-games'.

These activities were often learned by younger 'beginner' addicts from older ones and were perceived to require skill. Individuals became specialists in specific kinds of crimes. In the 1960's, a trend began toward crimes involving violence, e.g. armed robbery, auto larceny, 'yoking', mugging, purse-snatching, bank-robbery.

In the 1970's, prostitution, which for many years had been a source of income for many female addicts, became more open, cheaper, and less discriminant. From the late 1970's to the present, crimes have been characterized by violence, lack of skill, and use of firearms, refiecting, according to some observers, a reaction to the increase in price and decrease in quality of drugs. Recent research suggests that arrested narcotic drug users are now just as violent as other arrestees, if not more so. Also, studies of career criminals have found that the majority of the most violent were heroin users with high-cost heroin habits.

Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that narcotic addicts as a group commit a great deal of crime by any absolute standard. Furthermore, the amount of crime committed during periods of non-addiction is considerably less than the amount committed during periods of active addiction. In addition, there are huge variations in the amounts and types of crime committed by various subgroups of the addict population.

The relationship between drugs and crime is complex. Most directly, it is a crime to buy, use, possess, manufacture, or distribute illegal drugs (such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana). The misuse of legal substances may also be connected to crime. For example, prescription drug abuse may be associated with a variety of crimes such as prescription forgery, illegal internet pharmacies, and drug theft. Drugs also impact crime indirectly via the effects they have on users’ behaviour and by their association with violence and other illegal activity in connection with their manufacture, distribution, acquisition or consumption.

CASE: Chandru @ Chandrasekaran vs. The State (2010) [Madras High Court]
In this case the two accused and the victim were drug addicts. The accused injected the victim with illicit drugs due to which the victim died. Looking at the facts and circumstances of the case the court came to a conclusion that the two accused had criminally conspired to cause death of the victim and hence upheld the judgment of the trial court convicting them under sections 302 and 120B of IPC.

A promising approach to the problem of drug dependency and crime would be to concentrate on the use of a combination of methods for the treatment of addiction. Court-directed treatment has been shown to be effective, especially with drug monitoring and close surveillance in a clinical setting. In terms of priority, perhaps the most pressing objective from the standpoint of the welfare of society would be the selective control over the aberrant behaviour of the most violent and the heavily involved, criminally active drug abusers-unfortunately, the tatter are often especially skilled at avoiding detection.

Thus, it is important that when members of either of these subgroups are identified, legal authorities pay particular attention to their disposition and follow-up. While they are under treatment, legal pressure should be continued and their drug-taking and patterns of antisocial behaviour closely monitored and contained, when necessary.

Clearly, there are different types of addicts and different pathways to addiction and crime. Effective strategies for dealing with the problem of drugs and crime may well depend on recognition of this diversity and in tailoring countermeasures, both judicial and therapeutic, to individual requirements. 

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