Untreated substance abuse adds significant costs to not only the friends and families of addicts but also the community. The costs include prison expenses, property crimes and violence, child abuse and neglect, emergency room visits, foster care, and welfare costs victimization, reduced productivity, court and criminal costs, and unemployment. The overall cost of drug abuse and drug-related crime is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Complex Link
For well over two decades, we have known that substance abuse and crime are inextricably linked. More than thirty percent of property offenders and fifty percent of violent offenders say they committed the crimes under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Cutting the Costs
Thanks to research, successive governments have recognized the critical role of drug treatment programs in breaking the link between addiction and crime. Studies show that treatment costs cut drug abuse in half thus lowering criminal activity and reducing arrests. It is estimated that every dollar spent on addiction treatment programs cuts the cost of drug-related crimes by about three dollars.
The Effectiveness of Therapy
The failure to treat addicts both in the criminal justice system and those who haven’t yet committed crimes contributes to a vicious cycle of abuse and crime. Findings on the effectiveness of methadone therapy in reducing criminal activities related to heroin use justify increased investments in drug courts. Nonetheless, the need for treatment surpasses its supply.
A multi-dimensional approach which integrates addiction treatment and ordinary medical care has been shown to be most effective, especially in dealing with stigma. The treatment and recovery of drug addicts are essential elements of the strategy by the government, to tackle substance abuse and the crime it causes. The co-editor of University of Chicago Crime Lab, Harold Pollack agrees that there is good reason for Republicans and Democrats wanting to work together to mitigate the adverse effects of substance abuse and drug-related crime.