A Poisonous Mix: Alcoholism, Drug Addiction and Violence
Violence is not an easy subject to talk about. It is the darkest aspect of human behavior with the ability to destroy the lives of those victimized by it, as well as those who perpetrate it. No one comes out unscathed. In too many cases, alcohol and drug abuse is fuel to the violent fire raging in those dealing with addiction.
The statistics related to violence and addiction paint an ugly picture. Regarding violent crime, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that alcohol is a factor 40 percent of the time. And half of all assaults and homicides occur after the offender has been drinking.
What are the NCADD Statistics Related to Violence or Crime in Conjunction With Drugs and Alcohol?
- 118,000 incidents of family violence, not including spouses, involve alcohol
- 744,000 instances of alcohol related violence occur among acquaintances
- An estimated 60 percent of all individuals arrested for a crime test positive for drugs or alcohol or both
- Out of 2 million convicted offenders, 37 percent admit to drinking at the time of their arrest
- Almost 50 percent of inmates in prison and local jails are clinically addicted to drugs or alcohol
Though we might hear more stories of alcohol abuse and violence, drug addiction does not get a pass on the issue. The sheer volume of news about synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts inducing violent behavior is just one example.
Another is the 164,000 people murdered since 2007 in the Mexican and U.S. led war on drugs. This is a war caused by the enormous marketplace for illicit substances here in the states.
Certainly there are individuals struggling with addiction that are not prone to violence. For those that are, though, the root cause isn’t always immediately clear. Undiagnosed mental illness or a family history of abuse can play a factor in buried feelings of rage and shame that alcohol and drugs bring to the forefront of consciousness. These acts of violence not only damage the victims, research has shown that people who behave violently also suffer.
One study, reported on by the Psychiatric Times, compiled data on 6,000 individuals seeking treatment for addiction that had previously committed violent acts, such as murder, rape and serious assault. This population was twice as likely to have made several suicide attempts compared to those seeking treatment that had not committed acts of violence.
How Do We Fix the Problem?
The solution to this problem is incredibly complex. Obviously, greater access to mental health care and treatment for addiction is needed. Some experts believe that decriminalizing drugs and instituting stricter alcohol policies will reduce addiction related violence. Then there are those who suggest new prison construction as a means to handle the problem.
Anyone who pays attention to the news knows that we live in a violent world, both domestically and globally. Drug and alcohol addiction only compound this reality. For those experiencing the threat, the most effective action to take is to immediately leave any violent situation, relationship or living arrangement. This is easier said than done, but no one benefits from allowing violence – of any kind – to thrive.
Removing drug or alcohol addiction from the mix is probably the most important first step. Agreeing to enter treatment is never easy, but help is available, and often leads to better outcomes for everyone involved.
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