Estimating the extent to which criminal activity can be attributed to substance use is a challenging but important task. Quantifying the nexus between drugs and crime contributes to a robust assessment of the cost and burden of alcohol and drug abuse to the Australian community.
For the criminal justice system in particular, drug crime estimates, such as those presented in this paper, help to direct more effective targeting of diversion and treatment policies. The present study used new data collected by the AIC’s DUMA program. It examined the self-reported alcohol and drug attributions of 1,884 police detainees from nine separate data collection locations across Australia.
The study is the first of its kind to examine attribution estimates for specific drugs and by specific attribution types. Nearly half of all police detainees attributed their current offending to alcohol or drugs—alcohol being more frequently attributed to by detainees than all other drugs combined. Of the illicit drugs, heroin users were the most likely to attribute their offending to drug use, while cannabis users were among the least likely.
Surprisingly, of those who attributed their offending to drug use, only 25 percent attributed their crimes to economic factors, such as the need to fund drug addictions, whereas being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol were reported as the cause by as many as 40 percent.