Drug Dependency and Society
The Cost of Drug Abuse
Drug dependence has severe implications for all areas of modern society, from increased crime rates to a rise in child neglect. Research suggests that over 90,000 people were dealt with by police and in the courts and HM revenue and excise systems with reference to drugs in 2004, while Home Office research asserts that in 2003 and 2004 alone, 15.4 billion pounds was spent on issues related to drug use in Britain. Aside from the evident costs of treatment for those dependent on drugs, which is estimated at over £44,000 per problematic drug user each year, there are several other costs associated with drug abuse; these include for example, extra policing, money needed to repair or rebuild community structures damaged by vandalism or drug-related crime, legal proceedings and hospital treatment for those affected by drug-related crime or poor decision making on the part of an individual under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Crime and Anti-social Behaviour
Of this staggering figure of 15.4 billion pounds, 90% was devoted to dealing with drug-related crime. Studies investigating the relationship between drug abuse and crime repeatedly suggest a strong correlation between the two activities. The Offending, Crime and Justice Survey confirmed that 46% of those surveyed who admitted to having taken drugs had also committed a crime at some point in their lives. This survey also suggests a strong relationship between drug use and crime in young people from vulnerable groups including those who are homeless or have been in care, offenders, truants or those excluded from school. Those classed as being from a vulnerable group accounted for only 28% of people surveyed but an alarming 61% of Class A drug users.
Strongly related to crime and drug use is anti-social and threatening behaviour. A rise in drug abuse, anti-social behaviour and crime has caused a breakdown in communities and people feel increasingly at risk walking around the streets, even in an area they are familiar with. The elderly are particularly threatened by anti-social behaviour and several surveys suggest that old people are often afraid to leave the house alone.
The impact on decision-making brought about by drug and alcohol abuse also has serious consequences for society, whether this relates to irresponsible sexual behaviour or drink or drug driving. Although there are severe punishments for drink and drug driving, many people still decide to drive whilst under the influence of banned substances or in the case of alcohol, having consumed too much to be in a fit state to drive. Often, it is innocent people who get injured or killed by these actions. In terms of irresponsible sexual behaviour, both the numbers of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies have risen considerably in recent years.