Survey Says: Alcohol Still the Deadliest Drug

By Bryan Le 08/20/14

The most dangerous drug is still the most popular—and the most legal.


Despite messages in the media and laws that suggest otherwise, alcohol remains the most deadly drug available. In fact, alcohol has been involved in more homicides than all other drugs combined.

Surveys of those in prison have found that about 40% had been under the influence of alcohol during their offenses that landed them behind bars. The average incarcerated drinker has been three times above the legal limit when committing their crime, which includes murder, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

While alcohol isn't the deciding factor of whether these people would have committed crimes, it has played a distinct role in lowering inhibitions and increasing the likelihood that violence will happen.

Alcohol's effects aren't just limited to inhibiting the judgement of a perpetrator, but the victims' judgement as well, which could make them more vulnerable to crime than they would be sober. According to an analysis of Illinois violent deaths, 40% of homicide victims had alcohol in their blood systems at the time of death. In contrast, 10% had cocaine and only 3% were on opiates.

But the issue is complicated by alcohol's legality and availability. Some states have implemented programs to help control alcohol-fueled crime, such as South Dakota's 24/7 sobriety program that helps keep alcohol-related offenders away from alcohol through a support network rather than draconian penalties. And more could be invested into the treatment of alcoholism. For example, in 2011, four million uninsured Americans were in need of help for their alcohol disorders.

The Affordable Care Act has brought with it the biggest expansion in alcohol treatment resources in American history. While these steps have helped with America's alcohol problem, influences in our popular culture still need to be addressed, such as beer companies attempting to sell their products at the World Cup and their frequent sponsorship of violent sports such as ultimate fighting and boxing. 

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter