Perceived as a threat

Drug users and sub-cultures also provided a good illustration of the central themes of labelling theory. (Becker 1963). The labelling theory suggests that social control may exacerbate deviance or crime. By creating 'outsiders', we then label them deviant, which then affects their subsequent behaviour. Is it because drugs are criminalized that they are so closely intertwined with acts of criminality? To critical criminologists, the criminalisation of drug use was a further example of the use of the criminal law against groups whose alternative lifestyles were perceived as a threat.

It was also argued that the criminal law' amplified the problem of illegal drug use by encouraging the involvement of professional and organised crime. ' 11 There is also the concept of anomie, which plays an important part in our understanding of drugs and crime. Anomie means the lack of the usual social standards in either groups or an individual. This can be clearly seen in the connection between drugs and crime, as the majority of 'normal' citizens would not even consider robbing a neighbour's house to obtain money for drugs.

Emile Durkheim first introduced the concept of anomie in his 1897 paper 'Le Suicide'. As can be seen, he focused on the concept of a person's world falling apart, leading to suicide, but this can also be applied to leading to crime. A person on drugs can become a desperate individual, and they can lose contact with their family, with their friends, and can lose all aspects of their previous life. Anomie can include when people feel that they want the material possessions of society and are encouraged to possess them by advertising and the whole culture.

When they cannot get them legally they turn to illegal methods Alienation is anomie in the extreme. It is total estrangement from normal society. Alienation is either lack of integration in the outside world, or in the individual. This can used to explain the formation of gangs. If a person feels absolutely cut off from expected behavioural norms, then they can seek the support of others that have been alienated in ways similar to themselves. Alienation can contribute to delinquent behaviour.

Alienation helps assist our understanding of the link between drugs and crime, as people who are so far alienated are often very vulnerable and open to suggestion. If they fall in with the 'wrong sort of crowd' because these people seem to accept them, it can quickly become a slippery slope to drug abuse. There are many research problems when considering the extent of illegal drug use. Estimating the extent of illegal drug use is very difficult as a large number of it does go unrecorded.

Official statistics indicate numbers of addicts notified to the Home Office and numbers cautioned and convicted for drug offences. Neither of these accurately indicates the extent of illegal drug use, as many offenders do not register, large numbers of illegal drug users are not addicted, and much illegal drug use does not come to the attention of the police. Self-report studies have been the most commonly used method of assessing how many people have experimented with and regularly use different kinds of drugs.

The British Crime Survey (BCS) now includes an indication of illegal drug use and a growing number of surveys are carries out amongst young people. Regardless of their problems, these methods of measuring illegal drug use do give some indication of the extent and changing pattern of drug abuse. In conclusion, the relationship between crime and drugs is full of many complex issues. Criminal activity involving drugs is not restricted to drugs offences, a significant minority of all crime is drug-related, i. e. the proceeds of the offence will be spent on drugs.

The Home Office believes that around a third of acquisitive crime is drug-related. 12 Only some drugs are criminalized and studies of illegal drug use reveal that these are widely used in different settings from dance scenes, to cultures in which heroin can be seen as an alternative status symbol. The drugs market produces enormous profits for participants, from growers, producers and traffickers, to local, street level dealers. It also produces a large amount of secondary crime although the extent of this can be exaggerated.

It has been argued that the decriminalisation of some drugs would help in the battle against drug-related crime, and Poland has taken steps towards this and has legalised all drugs, including heroin. 13 Some argue that dangerous drugs should be subject to the same licensing laws as tobacco and alcohol, as at least that way it would be easier to keep track of it. Cannabis, in particular, has a strong case for it being legalised. The side effects are less harmful than a normal cigarette or alcohol, and it has beneficial medical effects.

A positive step in this direction is the fact that cannabis is being considered as a Class C drug, rather than a Class B. For some, this is the first step towards legalisation. Some also argue that more information on the taking of drugs should be available so that it can be made safer, but some see this as the tolerance of illegal drug use. The battle against drug-related crime will long and on going. It will take a lot of compromising on a lot of parts if a solution to this problem is to be reached. There is no short-term solution.