Alcohol-Related Homicides More Common Among Troubled Youth

Most people would assume that a life of drug dealing and gang banging puts a person directly in the path of death. It is not a strange assumption, as the news and newspapers are constantly filled with articles stating another person has died in a drug-related homicide. While it is true that the gang lifestyle and drug dealing are dangerous and produce many unnecessary fatalities, there is one activity that is more deadly by comparison – alcohol abuse.

A new study led by Professor Linda Teplin of Northwestern University shows that there are more homicides associated with alcohol abuse than those involving dealing drugs or being involved in a gang. Experts believe that this may be because younger people tend to drink alcohol put themselves in situations that can easily become volatile.

Researchers decided to look into this by examining the deaths of 1,829 younger people who were formerly in a youth detention center. Of the main factors associated with these premature deaths, those diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder had that highest percentage – more so than the other factors that people would typically thing are more life-threatening.

“People who drink are often in situations where tempers flare. Bad things can happen: barroom brawls, drinking on the front steps on a hot summer night,” explained Teplin.

The professor also points out that many children who abuse alcohol also have signs of other problems in their lives. Personality disorders, anger issues, depression and toxic home environments all play a major factor in a child’s use of alcohol. Being aware of the problems that precede alcohol abuse seems to be an important factor in preventing more alcohol-related deaths. Spotting warning signs and triggers early on in a child’s life may prevent them from being involved in an alcohol-related homicide.

Alcohol Responsible for More Homicides Than Other Substances

Studies show that alcohol is the number one catalyst for homicides, surpassing drugs like cocaine and heroin almost five times over. Since the number of people who abuse cocaine has been cut nearly in half, there are less violent outbreaks from that group of substance abusers. Heroin accounted for only 3% of homicides. Homicides that involved alcohol accounted for 35% of those fatalities.

This correlation likely stems from the fact that alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions. When someone is under the influence, they are more likely to feel justified in starting a fight and they are more likely to feel that the can overpower someone else. They are also more aggressive and less logical, which is a dangerous mix. Studies show that in the homicides involving alcohol, it’s not just those who commit the crime who are usually under the influence – the victims commonly have consumed alcohol as well.

Homicide cases were investigated around five counties surrounding Chicago as a sample population to determine what factor alcohol played in the fatalities. About 40% of homicide victims had alcohol in their blood. Almost all of the victims were men and almost all the fatalities were caused by gunshot wounds.

While focusing on eliminating drug abuse is vital, it is clear that we need to continue to focus on the issues surrounding alcohol abuse. Sending those who are alcohol dependent to treatment would help this problem, however many people do not have access to effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Unfortunately, insurance presents another obstacle. Many people who fit the criteria for alcohol abuse do not have insurance to pay for treatment. Continuing efforts to discourage binge drinking and alcohol abuse is a crucial step in helping to prevent these tragic crimes.