The social consequences of drug use
Hard-core users consume the bulk of illicit drugs in the United States, helping to fuel social pathologies and criminal violence, which has much of its roots in the consolidation and enforcement of drug sales territories.
In drug markets, violence is often a "means to achieve 'economic regulation and control' .... As one expert [has] explained..., '[i]n an underground economy, you can't sue. So you use violence to enforce your breaches of contract or perceived breaches of contract.'"
The data bear out this conclusion. Studies conducted between l978 and 1988 in Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C., found that ap-proximately one-quarter to one-half of homicides were drug-related. (Note 16) A study of over 400 homicides in New York City in 1988 found that over half were linked to drugs or alcohol. (Note 17)
A 1994 article in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly three out of every l0 victims of homicide in New York City in the early 1990s had cocaine in their system at the time of death. Overall, murder victims in the city are 10 to 50 times more likely than members of the general population to have been cocaine users. (Note 18)
Drug use often lies at the center of other social problems. Drug use, and the use of crack cocaine and heroin in particular, is associated with a higher risk of transmitting the AIDS virus. (Note 19) Crack cocaine smokers exhibit more high-risk sexual behaviors, while intravenous heroin use has contributed to a significant and growing portion of AIDS sufferers. The situation has become so alarming that some epidemiologists have advocated needle exchange programs to limit the spread of HIV infection. Additionally, drug use sometimes leads to prostitution as a means of financing drug habits, thereby encouraging the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.(Note 20)
Drug use also has profound negative effects upon family structure, as illustrated in this description of the effects of cocaine use:
As users become cocaine dependent, their family and social lives disintegrate. They concentrate their energies on finding the next dose; employed users may spend all earnings on cocaine; a parent may leave children unsupervised for extended periods. (Note 21)
Drug addiction destroys interfamilial relationships and often lies at the heart of the physical and emotional abuse that drug addicts visit on their spouse or children. The products of these devastated families, in turn, become the engine that drives future increases in the crime rate.
Drug use also fuels property crime. As drug users become more dependent, they become unable to hold down steady employment. As the habit devours the body, the addict often undertakes criminal activities in order to fund a growing addiction. Drug use and the resultant crime both burden the health care system with increased social costs for drug addicts and the victims of their crimes.