Study Blames Alcohol, Other Drug Users for Crimes

A new study concludes that people who misuse alcohol and other drugs are responsible for about 25 percent of all violent crimes, Reuters reported May 21.

Seena Fazel of the University of Oxford in England and Martin Grann of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, compared Sweden’s national crime register for the years 1988-2000 with hospital discharges of individuals diagnosed with alcohol and other drug misuse and psychoses.

The researchers found that 16 percent of violent crimes, including murder, robbery, assault, and rape, were committed by individuals who had been discharged from the hospital after treatment for alcohol misuse, while 10 percent were linked to those who misused drugs such as amphetamines and opiates.

“It is likely you will find the same sort of figures in Western Europe and North America,” said Fazel. “There needs to be more integration between the criminal-justice system and mental-health services because of this close association between crime and people who leave hospital with drug and alcohol problems.”

The researchers concluded that, “Using resources to treat people with these problems could be cost-effective in terms of crime reduction.” In particular, Fazel said that treatment should be considered if a person has been convicted of a violent crime. “Probation officers and mental health professionals should continue to work more closely,” he said.

The study’s findings are published in the May 22, 2004 issue of the British Medical Journal.