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Study proves liquor’s role in crime

By Hempology | May 3, 2002


Friday, May 3rd, 2002

Close the liquor stores. Ban those predinner cocktails. The federal
government has proved it: It’s the drunks, not the druggies, who should
really scare us.

A new study confirming the link between substance abuse and crime has found
that the real demon lurking behind the homicides and violent assaults in
this country is the one drug Ottawa lets us buy.

Pot, cocaine and heroin may make us steal. But alcohol makes us kill.

“Everybody’s scared of drug-crazed people slitting their throats in the
street. It’s more likely to be a good old-fashioned drunk,” said Richard
Garlick, a spokesman for the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and the
author of the report.

The three-year, $250,000 study found that drugs and alcohol were major
contributing factors in up to half of the examined crimes. But the line was
clearly drawn: Drugs were the leading weakness for people convicted of
economic crimes such as theft and shoplifting. Alcoholics were twice as
likely as drug takers to have committed violent crimes.

Drinking too much alcohol, the report says, was the main contributing
factor to one-third of homicides and assaults studied — suggesting that
these crimes would likely not have occurred at all if the killers had
stayed sober. This number jumps another 20 per cent when alcohol is
combined with drugs.

Drug use alone, on the other hand, was the main factor in only 7 per cent
of homicides.

“If you look at this study, the first thing you would do is prohibit
alcohol,” Mr. Garlick said. “The thing that’s really causing the most
serious crime is the drug that’s readily available to anyone at any time.”

Experts have always linked substance abuse to crime, but this is the first
Canadian study to produce statistics to substantiate the claim that drugs
and alcohol cause crime. To complete the report, the centre conducted
in-depth interviews with nearly 700 provincial and federal inmates and
surveyed another 10,000 prisoners and individuals under arrest.

Slightly more than half of federal inmates told researchers that they were
under the influence of either alcohol or drugs ( most often cocaine ) when
they committed their most serious crime. They reported addictions at a much
higher rate than the rest of the Canadian population, and drug abusers in
particular were more likely to rob or shoplift simply to feed their habit.

Addiction itself leads to more frequent crime generally: Inmates dependent
on drugs or alcohol averaged about seven crimes a week, mostly drug
offences, but more than three times the rate for inmates without addictions.

The question of what to do about substance abuse in Canada is currently the
domain of two parliamentary committees charged with looking into such
issues as the economic costs of drug use, the consequences of legalizing
marijuana and how to balance enforcement with treatment.

Liberal MP Derek Lee, a member of one of the committees studying the
problem, says it will now have to look at the hard numbers on alcohol abuse.

“Members of Parliament are going to have to wake up to this reality,” Mr. Lee said.

“It’s clear that tobacco is the big killing drug. And it’s clear that the
big expensive drug is alcohol.”

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