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Basic Facts About the War on Drugs

6. Do illegal drugs cause violent crime?

  • Of all psychoactive substances, alcohol is the only one whose consumption has been shown to commonly increase aggression. After large doses of amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, certain individuals may experience violent outbursts, probably because of preexisting psychosis. Research is needed on the pharmacological effects of crack, which enters the brain more directly than cocaine used in other forms.
  • Alcohol drinking and violence are linked through pharmacological effects on behavior, through expectations that heavy drinking and violence go together in certain settings, and through patterns of binge drinking and fighting that sometimes develop in adolescence. . . .
  • Illegal drugs and violence are linked primarily through drug marketing: disputes among rival distributors, arguments and robberies involving buyers and sellers, property crimes committed to raise drug money and, more speculatively, social and economic interactions between the illegal markets and the surrounding communities.

Psychoactive Substances and Violence, by Jeffrey A. Roth, Department of Justice Series: Research in Brief, Published: February 1994

All major authorities agree that the vast majority of drug-related violent crime is caused by the prohibition against drugs, rather than the drugs themselves. This was the same situation which was true during alcohol Prohibition. Alcohol Prohibition gave rise to a violent criminal organization. Violent crime dropped 65 percent in the year Prohibition was repealed.

There are about 25,000 homicides in the United States each year. A study of 414 homicides in New York City at the height of the crack epidemic showed that only three murders, less than one percent, could be attributed to the behavioral effects of cocaine or crack. Of these, two were victim-precipitated. For example, one homicide victim tried to rape someone who was high on crack and got killed in the process.

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