Alcohol Is Still the Most Dangerous Drug By A Long Shot

Alcohol Is Still the Most Dangerous Drug By A Long Shot

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This post was originally published on September 23, 2014.

What’s more threatening—the junkie on the corner or your average neighborhood drunk? Believe it or not, a new study shows that imbibing leads to more trouble than injecting when it comes to violent crime. As a recent article in The Washington Post noted, alcohol is directly involved in more homicides than all other substances combined.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Recent data from the Department of Justice took a poll of those incarcerated for violent offenses to see how many of that demographic were drinkers. The results showed that about 40% were drinking when they committed their crimes, all with average BAC levels of about three times the legal limit. This should come as no surprise to those familiar with the effects of alcohol; they call it “liquid confidence” for a reason, which can translate to the confidence necessary to throw an unnecessary punch at someone (or, of course, worse). The study went on to show that alcohol was especially common in very specific crimes, and mostly the worst ones—namely murder, sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

Alcohol use was also common on the other side of this equation. In an analysis of violent deaths from Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, 38% of homicide victims had alcohol in their blood when they were killed. Other intoxicants were far less likely to be there and in fact only three percent had opiates in their system within the same context.

Be Just As Careful Downing Booze Down Under

But alcohol-related violence isn’t only a problem in the United States; Australia, a country world-renowned for its rowdy drinking, is putting new policies into effect to cut back on the same problem. According to a recent article on NewsMail, the Queensland parliament just passed the “Safe Night Out Strategy” which means harsher punishments for violent offenses involving alcohol coupled with an increased police presence and compulsory drug/alcohol education in Queensland schools for kids between the ages of seven and 12.

The new legislation includes a new offense of “unlawful striking causing death,” which carries a maximum penalty of life in jail and requires that 80% of the sentence be served. It also includes harsher punishments for other offenses like assault of public officers, being a public nuisance, refusing to vacate licensed premises and urinating in public. Finally, venues operating after midnight will now have ID scanners as well to add unruly patrons to an online database so that they can be banned from these venues in the future. All of these efforts are designed as negative incentives to break up crime caused by the frenzied nightlife of big cities in Queensland.

Know Your Limits, Bro

Similarly, the United States is also targeting alcohol-related offenses committed by a high-risk demographic, namely fraternity members. According to HuffPo, The North American Interfraternity Conference (which represents 75 national and international fraternities) has finalized committees to study the links between—and prevalence of—hazing, alcohol abuse and sexual violence on American college campuses.

The word is that eight-to-12 experts on various interfraternity issues will make up each commission sent to different colleges to conduct their research. The NAIC say the research will be compiled and hopefully used to map the “legal and civil landscape” of the problem, and to identify “specific, bold and innovative [opportunities]” for key leadership to prevent these dangerous behaviors. Experts are expected to work on these issues until November 2015.

Alcohol is a pervasive part of many world cultures, and making policy changes to lessen the various negative social side effects of drinking is sure to be a challenge. Still, efforts like these show that at least some organizations are rising to that challenge; hopefully more will follow suit.

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Ryan Aliapoulios is a freelance writer and editor. He also hosts Dad Bops, the world's first intersectional vegan comedy podcast about dad music, available on iTunes and Soundcloud.