Action needed to tackle drug related crime

May 20, 2004

Nearly a quarter (23%) of all violent crimes are committed by people who seriously misuse alcohol or drugs, finds a study from Sweden in this week's BMJ.

Interventions to reduce the risk of violence in these patients would help to cut the enormous costs of drug related crime, which is estimated to be around £1bn annually in the United Kingdom.

Researchers used national psychiatric and crime registers in Sweden from 1998 to 2000 to calculate the impact of substance misuse on violent crime in the Swedish population.

During 1998-2000, 16% of all violent crimes in Sweden were committed by people who were discharged from hospital with diagnoses of alcohol misuse, and more than a tenth of all violent crimes were committed by patients diagnosed as having misused drugs.

The overall proportion of violent crimes in the whole population that may be attributed to patients with substance misuse was 23%.

Integrating mental health and substance misuse services leads to improved outcomes. This integration should be extended to the criminal justice system, say the authors.

The costs to the criminal justice system of drug related crime are enormous. Interventions to reduce the risk of violence in patients who misuse alcohol and drugs could be highly cost effective, they conclude.


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