Alcohol and drugs

Illegal drugs

Few people who study the causes of crime would deny that there is a link between criminality and alcohol or illegal drug use.

Alcohol abuse is a big problem in Scotland. Apart from the individual health problems that excess alcohol consumption brings, a great deal of crime, particularly at the weekends, is linked to alcohol abuse.

Many of those found guilty of serious assaults or murder have been under the influence of alcohol (and/or illegal drugs) when committing an offence.

In the same way, the supply and use of illegal drugs creates a huge crime problem. Whether it is a drug misuser shoplifting to 'feed their habit' or organised criminal gangs involved in the multi-million pound 'drugs trade', illegal drugs are a major cause of crime.

Criminological theories which look to the environmental situation as the cause of crime include:

  • social disorganisation – disorganised communities cause crime due to there being few social controls and, as a result, a criminal culture emerges
  • differential association/subculturalism – crime is learned through association with criminals especially where some forms of criminal activity are seen as acceptable

Many criminologists would support the view that the environment a person grows up in will affect their chances of committing crime. For example, recent crime statistics show that crime happens more often in poorer areas and is committed more often by people from poor backgrounds.