The relationship between drugs and crime from the perspective of young people in contact with criminal justice systems. A qualitative, cross-national research.
Background. The relationship between the use of drugs and criminal behaviour has been debated in the sociological and criminological field since the beginning of the twentieth century, without definitive results and with many limitations due to both the nature of samples and to epistemological approaches, often influenced by the political agenda. The aim of the present paper is to better investigate this relationship from the perspective of young people in contact with the criminal justice system, which has been often under-represented.
Methods. The study is based on research undertaken as part of the EU funded EPPIC project (Exchanging prevention practices on polydrug use among youth in criminal justice systems 2017-2020). Interviews were undertaken with 193 young people (15-25 years old) in contact with the criminal justice system in six European countries (Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, UK) who use or have used illegal drugs. The interviews mainly focused on the drug use trajectories and factors influencing them.
Results show that the interplay between drugs and crime is multifaceted and complex. A number of factors that can have a decreasing effect on some young people’s drug use trajectories, might have an opposite effect in other circumstances on other individuals. Another important consideration is that trajectories are influenced by the drug market, availability and affordability, which impact on the choice of specific types of drugs with different consequences.
Conclusions. Effective prevention approaches must be broad and intersectoral. Effective preventive interventions should mainly be implemented at policy level and should involve many other services besides criminal justice and health. Prevention interventions also should be as personalised as possible and the conflict and contradictions between punishment and treatment should be overcome.