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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 56 (2014) 1, 32 - 39

Review article

Substance use and criminality: a review

S.M.M. Lammers, S.E. Soe-Agnie, H.A. de Haan, G.A.M. Bakkum, E.R. Pomp, H.J.M. Nijman

background Substance use regularly co-occurs with many types of criminality, including violent behaviour.
aim To review the relationships between substance abuse and criminality, which can involve violent behaviour.
method We searched the literature for meta-analyses, reviews and empirical articles about relationships between the problematic use of and addiction to psychoactive substances on the one hand and antisocial and aggressive behaviour and recidivism on the other hand.
results In the case of both men and women there are significant relationships between substance abuse and criminal behavior. The majority of substance users, however, are not criminals and most of the offences they commit can be termed ‘acquisitive offences’. The relationship between alcohol and violence is stronger than the relationship between substance abuse and violence. Furthermore, it is only in cocaine users that we find indications that psychopharmacological effects stimulate violent behaviour. A number of factors, particularly interactions, determine whether substance abusers are criminal and are violent. Violent behaviour can result from interactions between the severity of illness caused by substance abuse, individual psychological, social and neurobiological characteristics, situational factors and expectancies regarding the psychopharmacological effects of a particular substance.
conclusion Substance abuse, particulary the combination of alcohol and drugs, is a predictor of criminality and criminal recidivism.

keywords addicted offenders, alcohol, criminality, drugs, recidivism