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5 Reasons Booze Is Deadlier than Heroin and Other Drugs That'll Land You in Jail

No other drugs even come close.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com / Piotr Marcinski


When you think of the “deadliest drug,” what do you picture? Do you imagine dirty needles and pill bottles strewn across the floor? Do scenes from Hollywood's dingiest heroin and crack dens (a la Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream) flash through your mind?

If so, you’ve been misled.

Alcohol is the most dangerous drug out there. No other drugs—not meth, not heroin, not crack, and certainly not psychedelics like MDMA—even come close. It tops the charts in everything from addiction, to deadly accidents, to the increased likelihood of homicide, rape, partner violence and violence against women in general.

Here are five ways booze is deadlier than the many drugs the US government criminalizes and deems most dangerous.

1. More murders happen under the influence of alcohol than other drugs. Alcohol is behind more homicides than “every other substance, combined,” as Harold Pollack put it recently in a Washington Post article. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence ( NCADD), federal research shows alcohol was a factor in the homicides committed by 40 percent of convicted murderers being held in jail or state prison in the US. In the US, about 40% of people serving time for violent offenses were drinking at the time of their crime.

“Among those who had been drinking, average blood-alcohol levels were estimated to exceed  three times the legal limit,” Pollack reported.

2. Murder victims often have alcohol in their systems. Victims of homicide are more likely to have alcohol in their systems than another drug. This is most likely because of the way alcohol use impairs judgement, increasing the chances of becoming the victim of violence. As Pollack put it:

“You’re less likely to leave that cutting remark unanswered. If you’re unfit to drive, you’re more willing to accept that ride home from a helpful stranger.” Pollack cites recent data from the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System, showing the recent toxicology results for homicide victims in Illinois. His article summed up this trend in the following chart, which is based on research at the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute on 3,016 homicides in five Illinois counties between 2005 and 2009:

As the chart shows, alcohol was found to be the sole drug in 34 percent of homicide victims’ systems. Alcohol and cocaine combined were found in 5 percent of victims, cocaine only in another 5 percent, and opiates in just 3 percent.

3. Violence associated with cocaine is decreasing, while crime associated with alcohol is on the rise. In the last 15 years, violent crime associated with cocaine use has been in decline while crime following alcohol consumption continues to increase. In Chicago’s Cook County Jail, positive cocaine screens “are down by about half when compared with ten or twenty years ago. The same is true in many other cities,” the Post reported.

According to the National Council on Alcholism and Drug Dependence, “Among violent crimes, the offender is far more likely to have been drinking than under the influence of other drugs, with the exception of robberies, where other drugs are likely to have been used such as alcohol.”

4. Alcohol use increases the chances of domestic violence, more than any other drug. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the link between alcohol abuse and both the prevalence and severity of domestic violence is undeniable. The World Health Organization says that, “Studies of intimate partner violence routinely identify the recent consumption of alcohol by perpetrators." A WHO fact sheet states that victims believed their partner to have been drinking prior to 55 percent of physical assaults in the US.