University of Leicester
2016AyresTPhD.pdf (2.68 MB)

Drugs and Crime: The True Relationship

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posted on 2016-11-10, 11:06 authored by Tammy Ayres
The link between drug use and crime is well established in academic, policy and treatment, particularly the idea that drug use causes crime, despite the nature of the drug-crime relationship varying between sub-groups of drug using offenders and not existing at all for the majority of drug using non-offenders1. Research suggests the amount of crime attributable to drug use has been over exaggerated. There is a dearth of research examining the drug-crime relationship between non-treatment and non-offender samples, particularly in the UK. There is also less research examining the notion that both drug use and crime are caused by other (third) factors compared to the research examining the idea that drug use causes crime. Thus this research aims to compare a group of drug using offenders (n=149) with a group of drug using non-offenders (n=111) on a number of childhood risk factors (perceived parenting, negative life-events and impulsivity), school and peer variables, as well as their coping to strategies. The aim is to ascertain if criminality among drug users is attributable to these other (third) factors, instead of their drug use causing the crime to facilitate a more in depth understanding of the relationship between drug use and offending. Group comparisons followed by regression analyses were employed to examine whether any variables predicted group membership (drug using offender or a drug using non-offender), while age, job and drug use severity were controlled for. A high number of negative life events experienced before age 18, earlier age of onset for drug use, always being in trouble with the police with friends, receiving no qualifications from school, being expelled from school and behavioural avoidant coping predicted being a drug using offender, while the reasons for initiating drug use (out of curiosity and to socialise with friends) predicted being a drug using non-offender. The results show significant differences exist between drug users that go on to become offenders and drug users who do not, and these differences are attributable to offending/non-offending status rather than drug use. The implications for treatment and policy are considered.



Palmer, Emma; Hollin, Clive

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Psychology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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