Substance Use and Abuse

Amie L. Nielsen

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Substance Use and Abuse

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology


Show Summary Details


Use of substances for many reasons is widespread in the United States. Although use of some drugs is acceptable and legal (for example, caffeine, prescription drugs for use by the person they were prescribed for), use of others is not. For the purposes of this entry, the focus is on the latter. Substance use and abuse refer to use of various types of drugs for nontherapeutic reasons and often to alter mood. Some of these substances may be legal to use and possess for some people but illegal for others. Other substances such as cocaine and marijuana are illegal when possessed and used, as well as manufactured, trafficked, and transported, by all Americans. Use of substances is differentiated from abuse of substances. “Use” may refer to experimental or occasional use of a substance. Abuse, on the other hand, is often characterized by a habitual and maladaptive pattern of drug use that involves adverse consequences associated with use of the substance. Abuse may lead to addiction, which typically involves chronic and compulsive use: but not all substance users or abusers become addicts. Substance use and abuse is an important area of crime. As is discussed in the entry “Drugs and Crime,” there are indeed complex connections between alcohol, drugs, and crime. Not all substance use and abuse, however, leads to involvement in other types of crime. Yet, the use and abuse of many substances, as well as behaviors engaged in while under their influence and to obtain them, are themselves criminal acts. These types of offenses result in many arrests, incarceration, involvement in drug courts, and drug treatment concerns. For example, annual arrests for substance abuse violations are, and for several years have been, the single largest category of arrests, excluding the crimes listed under “all other offenses” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2009a, cited in the sections Data Sources and Alcohol-Related Offenses). In total, arrests for substance-abuse-related crimes represent more than one-third of arrests in any given year, and they entail substantial efforts at detection by law enforcement. A substantial percentage of prison populations, especially in the federal system, are devoted to offenders arrested for substance abuse violations. Thus, because substance abuse and related behaviors are often linked to other forms of crime, as well as being crimes themselves, this is an important area of consideration in criminology as well as other disciplines, including public health.

Article.  7531 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.