Street addiction: A proposed theoretical model for understanding the draw of street life and gang activity

Dessa Kristen Bergen-Cico, Arnett Haygood-El, Timothy Noble Jennings-Bey, Sandra D. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Through qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with men who have histories of gang affiliation and street crime, this article posits understanding these behaviors through the framework of addictions. The participants in this study describe themselves as being addicted to the action of the streets and their narratives fit with the evolving framework of a behavioral addiction. There is currently no formal diagnosis for understanding the draw of action to street crime and gang association as addiction. Through semi-structured interviews we examine the key constructs of cognition and behaviors relevant to understanding the cycle of gang involvement, crime, and violence under the rubric of behavioral addictions. Thematic elements of significance emerged which parallel the analytic framework of addictions and delineate ways that being addicted to the "action of the streets" is a substantive factor in recidivism with the criminal justice system. The construct of "street addiction" articulated by those who live it, makes important practical and theoretical contributions to the fields of addictions, criminal justice, public health, psychology, and sociology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-26
Number of pages12
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Addiction
  • Crime
  • Drugs
  • Gangs
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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