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What Is The Relationship Between Alcohol And Crime?

The relationship between alcohol and crime dates back at least 500 years, when drunkenness itself was listed as a crime in the country of England. It’s no surprise that alcohol has had such a strong and historic link to illegal activity: alcohol’s ability to lower inhibitions, impair judgment, and incite aggression is well-documented.

The United States has paid an economic toll of well over $200 billion due to the effects of alcohol-associated criminal activity, a sum more than double the cost of all other drug-related crimes combined. By removing alcohol from one’s life, one greatly reduces the chances that one will be either the victim or the perpetrator of violent crime in America. Alcohol leads to criminal behavior across a variety of categories.

Alcohol And Crime: Homicide

A study of the blood alcohol content (BAC) of homicide victims in the US found that nearly 40% of those murdered tested positive for alcohol in their systems after their death. Another study analyzing urban crime found that 44% of the time, both the victim and the perpetrator of homicide had alcohol in their systems at the time of the crime.

The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) report that there were 19,141 murders nationwide in 2019. Extrapolating from the statistics given to us by the aforementioned studies, we can estimate that roughly 7,600 of those homicides, if not more, were linked to the use of alcohol.

Murder had previously been on the decline in America but saw a historic surge beginning in 2020. This also occurred simultaneously with a substantial increase in the amount of alcohol consumed by the population, with both phenomena linked closely to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems the increase in drinking is correlated with the increase in homicide, making the link between alcohol and crime all the more clear.


DUI, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is one of the most destructive and pervasive crimes in our society today. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one life is lost every 52 minutes to the scourge of drunk driving specifically. That added up to 10,142 fatalities in 2019, all due to the effects of alcohol.

What’s more, police have an incredibly difficult time apprehending all of the drunk drivers on the road. It’s estimated that only about 1% of individuals who drive drunk are actually arrested for the practice. That means the majority of inebriated drivers get off scot-free, which can create the erroneous impression that drunk driving is safe.

It’s not. Alcohol affects reaction time, depth perception, alertness, judgement, muscle coordination, and a host of other physiological processes that are needed to be a safe operator of a motor vehicle. A BAC of 0.08% or higher is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, even though impairment starts well before this blood alcohol level is reached.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse, also called intimate partner violence, is heavily linked to the consumption of alcohol. Some of the forms of domestic abuse are listed below, and all have the potential to escalate to even worse levels when the abuser is in a drunken state.

Domestic abuse includes:

  • Becoming physically abusive (including punching, kicking, biting, slapping, or hitting).
  • Becoming psychologically abusive (using coercion, threats, gaslighting, manipulation, or verbal abuse).
  • Becoming sexually abusive (sexual harassment, leering or catcalling, groping, sexual assault and rape).

Men are typically the instigators of these types of crimes, and victims frequently report that alcohol is a driving factor behind the abuse. One study found that over half of the victims of physical assault report that their partner had been drinking in the time leading up to the crime.

To quote the World Health Organization, “Alcohol use directly affects cognitive and physical function, reducing self-control and leaving individuals less capable of negotiating a non-violent resolution to conflicts within relationships.” Additionally, a drinking habit can contribute to other stressors in a domestic environment. Alcohol abuse can lead to financial difficulty, health troubles, arrests, public embarrassments, loss of employment, and many other unpleasant outcomes, all of which could make home life much more tense and prone to violence.

Once domestic abuse begins, it can become a pattern of behavior, often becoming entrenched and repeated over time. As with many crimes, domestic abuse is prone to escalation, meaning violent incidents and assaults may become worse and worse as they continue.


Theft or robbery is one of the most common crimes, with the FBI reporting well over 250,000 robberies nationwide in 2019; roughly 1 every 2 minutes. While robberies have been on the decline in recent years, there is a significant link between alcohol and theft, with one study finding that the majority of burglary offenders studied had engaged in alcohol consumption before committing crimes.

Those who drink may also be driven to commit robberies out of necessity. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and, if there’s no other way to fund the ongoing addiction, the addicted individual may resort to theft as a way to stave off their negative symptoms and get back on an even keel. Unfortunately, this contributes to a vicious cycle where tolerance builds over time and even more alcohol is required, resulting in more and more crime.

Rising Above Alcohol And Crime

No one wants to see their own life or the life of a loved one come to an end because of homicide, drunk driving, or domestic violence. Even those who survive these crimes can have their lives forever changed for the worse as a result. That’s why it’s so important to get immediate help for a drinking problem that has gotten out of control.

If you’re trying to recover from an alcohol use disorder, Contact a treatment provider today. You can get information on treatment centers near you and avoid a potentially disastrous future before it’s too late.