Using a Narrative Framework to Understand the Relationship Between Drugs and Crime

Heith Copes, Andy Hochstetler & Sveinung Sandberg (forthcoming 2015): "Using a Narrative Framework to Understand the Relationship Between Drugs and Crime." Criminal Justice Review. Published online ahead of print November 26. 2014


Goldstein posited that drugs and violence are related in three primary ways, namely, psychopharmacologically, systemically, and economic compulsively. Although Goldstein’s framework is a robust explanation of the drugs and violence nexus, it largely ignores the experiences of the actors, and the mechanism and experiences linking motive to action remain underexplored and vague. To understand the causal relationships detailed by Goldstein and others, we believe that it is important to look at the phenomenological basis of his drugs and violence connections. Drawing on interviews with a sample of 30 incarcerated carjackers, we identify three narratives in offenders’ accounts that tie drug use to violence. Two of these (“it wasn’t the real me” and “expected violence in drug areas”) are expressions of Goldstein’s mechanisms, while the third one (“addicts are deserving victims”) indicates the importance of symbolic boundaries for harmdoing. We argue that drug users draw from culturally circulating stories present in both conventional and street culture to explain the drug violence links and that the presence of these stories is a contributing factor in drug-related violence. Further work within Goldstein’s framework would thus benefit from including meanings commonly held and understood in the world of heavy drug users and street offenders who commit violence.

The full article is available here.

Published Dec. 12, 2014 12:49 PM - Last modified Nov. 9, 2015 8:09 AM