Jun 11 2004
Nearly a quarter (23%) of all violent crimes are committed by the 2% of people who seriously misuse alcohol or drugs, found a study by Oxford and Swedish researchers in the British Medical Journal
Dr Seena Fazel from the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford and Martin Grann from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied Swedish statistics and concluded that interventions to reduce the risk of violence in drug-taking patients would help to cut the enormous costs of drug-related crime, which is estimated to be over £1bn annually in the United Kingdom.
The 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 illicit 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, and the authors suggest that this integration should be extended to the criminal justice system.
Dr Fazel said: '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 as well as socially desirable.'