The United States was introduced to drugs starting in the early ninetieth century where several scientist, chemist and money hungry individuals began experimenting to create new drugs for targeted groups. While the issue with drugs came in waves known as epidemics, crime began to take a front row seat across America due to new laws began to take form with the hopes for agencies to get control of the current and next epidemic. Much like a tumbleweed, relentless and always moving, individuals found loopholes in the laws to prevent being locked away in jail and found ways to continue selling their illegal product to their addicted clients with this the start of organized crime began rising to multimillion-dollar problems.
How drugs and criminal activity coexist
Illegals drugs have been a source of problem and crime starting around the time that cocaine was being used in Coca-Cola. Strict laws began to take effect when cocaine was thought to be correlated to African Americans during that time. With the evolution of illegal drugs, there are correlated issues such as addiction and with addiction comes the need to get high at any cost. The purpose of this paper is to propose further research on illegal drugs and the correlation to crime.
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The history of illegal drugs.
The gold rush of 1849 brought many foreigners to America such as thousands of Chinese who helped build railroads in California, but the issue was those Chinese groups were addicted to smoking Opium (History.com Editors). This brought the need to sell, trade and buy Opium in places that were called Opium dens soon after California started making legal moves to limit the use of Opium use because it became a much larger issue such as the introduction of Morphine. Going back a few years “One of the first careful studies of morphine addiction was made in 1875 by Levinstein, who identified key elements in opiate addiction that would interest researchers: the fixation on the drug that made it the highest priority even when the user’s life situation was deteriorating, and the curious phenomenon of withdrawal that could be reversed quickly by giving more opiate (Levinstein, 1878)” (‘Institute of Medicine (US)’). Around the early 1990s the medical field began researching the effects of drug use and treatment methods to counter severe withdrawal, advancing medicine and technology helped find the most effective treatment options while treating the effects drugs had on the human body.
In 1970 President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act which calls for regulation on specific drugs and substances, along with this came the classification of drugs based on their medical use and the likelihood of abuse (War on Drugs). In 1978 the recreational use of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) began to become overwhelmingly popular because of its euphoric like feelings during a difficult time across the United States.
The War on Drugs.
In 1971 President Nixon called for a war on drugs in which was thought to have become a main focus after a poll was conducted by President Nixon’s party which found almost half of the United States found there was a serious drug problem. With this first call of war against drugs, law enforcement agencies began to crack down on drug abuse while following new laws created more frequently than ever before. This was the first time that mandatory prison sentences were brought to public eye and shortly following in 1973 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was created. President Reagan took office in the late 1970s, in the beginning of his presidency his wife, Nancy Reagan, started the ‘Just Say No’ campaign against drugs which aimed to teach children and young adults about drugs and the dangerous of using them. During President Reagans presidency drug related incarcerations increased more than half showing the effectiveness of his and President Nixon’s efforts to end drug abuse.
As early as history is recorded there was some form of drug use which was not yet considered illegal. Most drug use was not considered to be illegal or a crime until it spread across America causing addiction. As time went on drugs became illegal then became classified between a few different types of drug crimes. The first is considered a drug-defined crime which includes: possession, general use of illegal drugs, contraband, selling of illegal drugs, and general violation of drug laws. The second is crimes committed with the intent to gain income such as: general selling of illegal drugs, any crime to gain money to purchase illegal drugs (Example would be prostitution), and crimes that are committed under the influence of drugs. The last one and most severe is organized crime and activities, crimes under this section would include money laundering, political corruption, international drug trade, cartels, etc. Small time crimes such as robberies were first not related to drug use until later when suspects were caught and found to be under the influence or in withdrawal desperate for money to purchase their drug of choice. The primary correlation between illegal drugs and crime starts with the classification that a specific drug is highly likely for abuse of said drug, then being in possession of the illegal drug, creating more of the drug for personal use of distribution, and violence in relation to a drug.
North Carolina, much like every state, has faced drug epidemics throughout the years but within recent years the issues have spiraled out of control causing strain on law enforcement agencies and medical providers. Susan M. Kansagra, MD mentions nearly sixty percent of deaths in North Carolina in 2016 were “heroin and/or fentanyl or fentanyl analogues”. While North Carolina has a strong history of taking control of the drug issues when they arise is would be more efficient to be ahead by knowing the next drug of choice, the next most abused drug, best and new treatment methods for new and older drugs, and what laws could help prevent further drug related crimes and injuries.
The primary objectives of this research proposal are:
- Obtain information for the current drug abused most in North Carolina
- Obtain information on available treatment programs in North Carolina
- Get an overview of the state specific drug epidemic of North Carolina
In previous years North Carolina focused on medical providers and insurance companies reducing and authorizing prescription of pain medications that have been proven to heavy drug use and abuse. According to North Carolina Opioid Summary in 2017 there were about two thousand deaths that involved opioids meaning the drug related average was much higher than the normal for any other state. There were about 659 prescribed opioid deaths in 2017 alone or in another numerical form for every 100 persons about 77 were prescribed an opioid. The 2019 Opioid Summit for North Carolina states “From 1999 to 2016 more than 12,000 North Carolinians died from opioid-related overdoses” further down the page reads information of how they plan to combat the epidemic starting with preventative health care and treatment.
Data collection is one of the most important issues when facing a drug epidemic for several reasons. One issue that requires precise data is knowing what drug is being used, by who, and where in order to combat the issue. For illegal drugs and their relation to crime the primary means of data collection starts with observation of one’s immediate community. Surveys have been used previously by president’s to better understand overall concern of the issue which brought about agencies that we still use today to enforce drug laws. Interviews of current or previously incarcerated persons is one of the best methods to obtain data because of the personal experience along with information pertaining to their specific crime and drug use. One less trustworthy approach is secondary data analysis. This method can give a large amount of information and statistics, but the only issue is knowing the data was collected exactly how it is supposed to be and is truthful. Overall this subject requires mixed methods for the most accurate information gathered to assist in further research, assistance in developing new laws and medical treatments, and to assist in summarizing a current drug issue with a large amount of information such as how it started, where it started, what illegal drug was used, by who or what group, has is started and stayed in the United States or is this an international issue, and other general information gathering.
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The study will be broken down into multiple sections due to the need for mixed methods for total information gathering. The first step will start with reviewing previous studies and other literature for common trends and correlating data. The next step will be conducting surveys of the general population then giving the same survey to current jail and prisons for information on current incarcerated individuals with drug related crimes. The third part will be in person interviews of those with drug related crimes, drug related criminal activity, drug related incarcerations, and previous drug dependencies. The final part will be compiling the data into a more reasonable amount of information for the general public to read and for further research as well.
The results that are to be expected would start with a more complete idea of who in North Carolina is addicted to drugs (age, race, gender, and ethnicity), what the drug of choice is, and what treatment options have worked for those who successfully got clean. An unexpected result could be the financial impact found for example those in a poor community might have a higher drug and crime rate than those of wealthy communities. An additional result could be valuable medical information to lead to new treatments to assist in the transition of addiction to withdrawal without the pain.
- 2019 Opioid Summit. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncdhhs.gov/about/department-initiatives/opioid-epidemic
- History.com Editors. (2017, June 12). Heroin, Morphine and Opiates. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-heroin-morphine-and-opiates
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Opportunities in Drug Abuse Research. Pathways of Addiction: Opportunities in Drug Abuse Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1996. B, Drug Abuse Research in Historical Perspective. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232965/
- Kansagra, S. M., & Cohen, M. K. (n.d.). The Opioid Epidemic in NC. Retrieved from http://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/79/3/157.full
- North Carolina Opioid Summary. (2019, March 30). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/opioid-summaries-by-state/north-carolina-opioid-summary
- War on Drugs. (2017, May 31). Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/crime/the-war-on-drugs
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