No violence reported by violent dope fiends

By Mark Harrison, November Coalition writer

"Drugs are related to crime through the effects they have on the user's behavior by generating violence," says the Bureau of Justice Statistics in their Fact-Sheet on Drug-related Crime. No, the government is not referring to alcohol, which is by far the drug of choice for murderers and violent assailants, according to a 1998 study that few have paid attention to. No significant evidence indicates that illegal drugs cause violent behavior, according to this major study that was quietly published in the Annual Review of Sociology nearly four years ago.

The report was highlighted recently when Prevention File, an industry journal for drug treatment and prevention, interviewed Dr. Robert Nash Parker, the study's principal author. "If you really want to have an effective policy related to substance abuse; if you want to have fewer bad outcomes in terms of health, welfare and violence, the substance you want to focus on is alcohol," said Parker. "The evidence is pretty powerful and pretty convincing if someone is willing to look at it," he added.

More than 25% of all assailants in violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol and is "overwhelmingly" the drug most associated with homicides. Less than 10% of crimes were committed by someone under the influence of illegal drugs, and most were found to be 'situational' rather than 'pharmacological.' Evidence of any link between heroin and violence is "virtually nonexistent," the report concludes.

Rare cases of 'toxic psychosis' are associated with amphetamines during binges. And PCP, which has been widely portrayed as inciting users to violence, is based primarily upon case studies of people with underlying mental problems. "Emotionally stable people under the influence of PCP probably will not act in a way very different from their normal behavior," the study said. Cocaine provided the strongest link to violence, which can sometimes cause paranoia and irrational fears that may drive people to violent acts. But still, there are no clear pharmacological links between the drug and violence; rather, social environments play far greater roles in violent behavior than cocaine itself, the report says.

The study conducted by researchers at the Robert Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California at Riverside was based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on drugs, alcohol and violence. The report adds further credence to previous research indicating that there is little connection between illicit drugs and violence. The National Institute of Justice arrived at similar conclusions, for instance, in their publication, Research in Brief, in 1994.

Officials at the Bureau of Justice Statistics almost admit in their Fact Sheet on Drug-related Crime that violence associated with drugs is the result of prohibition. "Trafficking in the illicit drug trade tends to be associated with the commission of violent acts," conclude officials.

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information:
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