208 million people internationally consume illegal drugs which is more than the combined populations of California, New York, The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, and Australia. As much as 70% of violent crime has been linked to drug and alcohol abuse, undermining the overall quality of our urban environment, and placing an additional burden on our criminal justice system. Local research suggests that just under half of male prisoners (or parolees) used alcohol and/ or drugs at the time of, or before committing their most recent offense.
People under the influence of drugs and alcohol act out in ways they would not ordinarily behave. Drugs distort perceptions, impact mood, and lower inhibitions. Withdrawal symptoms may force the addict to commit crimes in order to support their addiction. For example, crack cocaine use may result in paranoia, insomnia and cocaine psychosis. Withdrawal from crack cocaine is associated with symptoms of depression including suicidal thinking, severe fatigue and intense craving. Crack cocaine users have no ceiling on their use, and tend to consume the drug until there are no more resources left with which to purchase it. The need for large amounts of instant cash without having to work a regular job tends to lead women into prostitution and fraud, while it tends to lead men into more direct forms of acquisitive crime. As the urgency of addiction increases, these crimes can often become violent.
Whilst the state has provided resources for the treatment of persons having substance abuse and related abuse problems, this funding remains inadequate and treatment facilities are poorly distributed throughout the country. Critically, these facilities, what few there are, tend to be concentrated in large, urban areas. Under the Apartheid system there were major disparities in the resources spent on substance abuse for the different races, and today these disparities unfortunately remain, with scant resources being spent by the state on public addiction treatment. Consequently opportunities for treatment remain largely available to those who can afford private health care.
The health risks associated with drug and alcohol addiction, including HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, strokes, cardiac arrest, seizures, chronic bronchitis, respiratory failure and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome continue to strain an already overstretched healthcare system.