Drug / Alcohol Effects On Society

The combination of drinking and driving results in one injury every minute and one death every 32 minutes. The nation's trauma centers are overwhelmed by the number of intoxicated drivers each week. A stroll through the hallways of their emergency rooms each weekend, make it clear just how big a problem alcohol-related injury is. The majority of those injured have either been drinking or were injured by someone who was drinking at the time. The cost to society is staggering - costing the United States around 50 billion dollars/year. Approximately 40% of traffic-related deaths are related to alcohol. That translates into approximately 16,000 deaths in the United States per year. Alcohol consumption alters three fundamental factors relating to motor vehicle crashes. It decreases driver performance, increases risk-taking behavior and decreases the chance of survival of occupants involved in crashes.

Alcohol and drug abuse cost society an estimated $86.1 billion from direct costs and losses in productivity related to crime, social welfare expenditures, motor vehicle crashes, and fire destruction. Drug abuse is estimated to have cost $57.5 billion of these non-health-related costs, and alcohol abuse is estimated to have cost another $28.7 billion.

Principles among these costs are the costs of crime. In 1992, alcohol and drug abuse captured an estimated 25 to 30 percent of violent crimes and property crimes (depending of the specific type of crime). Direct costs of alcohol- and drug-related crimes, including police and private protection services, adjudication, corrections, and property destruction, were estimated at $24.3 billion. Another $45.6 billion was incurred as lost productivity among crime's victims, incarcerated offenders, and persons who engage in crime careers rather than the legitimate labor market. Nearly 600,000 prison-years were served because of alcohol or drug abuse-related-offenses (a loss of $23.5 billion in potential productivity) and another 600,000 persons withdrew from legitimate labor market primarily to pursue income-generating crime and/or drug dealing (a loss of $19.2 billion in potential legitimate productivity).

This study also estimates that alcohol and drug abuse caused 3 to 4 percent of social welfare cases (depending on the particular social program) in the United States in 1992. Social welfare programs include income maintenance and related cash assistance programs, as well as foster care. It is estimated that more than $1.0 billion was spent administering welfare benefits for cases caused by alcohol and drug abuse problems. An additional $10.4 billion in transfer payments was made as a result of alcohol and drug abuse problems, sometimes to the alcohol and drug abusers themselves and sometimes to their families. The value of transfer payments does not represent a "net loss" to society and accordingly is not counted in the total cost.

Alcohol abuse has been implicated in about 18 percent of all motor vehicle crashes and nearly 40 percent of fatal crashes in the United States. This study estimates that the direct costs (mainly property destruction) of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes were more than 13.6 billion in 1992 (costs of injuries and deaths were counted in previous chapters). This study also estimates that costs of about $1.6 billion were incurred as a result of alcohol-related fire destruction and fire containment.

Crime and Criminal Justice System

The extremely strong links between alcohol and drug abuse and crime have long been issues of public policy concern. This controversial issue has stimulated theory and research about what these links mean, with steady progress, although there is certainly not yet a consensus. This study estimates that illicit drug and alcohol abuse were responsible for $69.9 billion in economic costs in 1992 - $57.1 billion for illicit drugs and $12.8 billion for alcohol abuse. These estimates are based on plausible estimates of causal relationships between illicit drugs and alcohol and various types of crime. The estimates of causal involvement attempt to find and midlevel between the extremes and, in so doing, to demonstrate the general magnitudes of various types of impacts that alcohol and drug abuse-related crimes have on our nation. The causal estimates used in this study are as follows:

Drugs are responsible for about 25 to 30 percent of property damage and 4 to 5 percent of violent crime (the causal values are slightly different for the specific offenses within types). Alcohol is responsible for about 25 to 30 percent of violent crime and 3 to 4 percent of property crime (the causal values are slightly different for the specific offenses with in classes). All "drug-defined" (e.g., dealing and possession) and "alcohol-defined" (e.g., driving under the influence and public drunkenness crimes) are so attributed. Data have been used to argue for much higher attribution rates. Alcohol and drugs are present in violent crimes and property crimes much more frequently than is reflected in the rates employed in this study. Conversely, there are also arguments for lower attribution rates. Some researchers have legitimate concerns that certain persons simply choose to engage in crime and to abuse alcohol and/or drugs, with no causal relationship between their crime and alcohol or drug abuse.

Relationship Between Alcohol and Drug Use and Crime

There exists a very strong empirical and conceptual association between criminal activity and the abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs, although there is little consensus about the nature of this relationship. Studies of arrestees and criminal justice populations consistently find high rates of alcohol and illicit drug use. Self-reported information from inmates confirms the strong association between drug use and crime. According to self-reports from a 1991 survey with a sample of 14,000 state and 6,600 federal prison inmates, 24 percent of federal inmates and 49 percent of state inmates reported that they were under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs at the time of their current offense (U.S. Department of Justice 1994e). In state prisons, 32 percent of inmates reported they were under the influence of alcohol, and 31 percent reported they were under the influence of drugs (including 14 percent who were under the influence of both) when they committed their current offense.

Information obtained from arrestees provides additional evidence of the empirical association between drug use and crime. The Drug Use Forecasting (DFU) program operated by the National Institute of Justice conducts interviews and urinalyses in inner-city lockups of sampled male arrestees in 23 cities and selected female arrestees in 20 cities. Unfortunately, it is somewhat difficult to generalize DFU data because it is concentrated on inner-city arrestees.

Still, DFU data from 1993 indicate that across the cities, the percentage of arrestees who tested positive for illicit drug use (any one of the following: opiates, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, LSD, or PCP) at the time of arrest ranged from 54 percent to 81 percent for male arrestees and from 42 percent to 83 percent for female arrestees (U.S. Department of Justice 1994d).


Extensive data are available that show a strong relationship between alcohol and crime -- particularly violent crime. During the past two decades, research has discovered mechanisms and effects strongly suggesting that alcohol consumption plays a material, causal role in violent behaviors.

Numerous studies have found that "problem drinkers, alcohol abusers, and alcoholics appear to be over-represented among adults convicted of violent crimes, and people convicted of violent crime often report alcohol consumption immediately prior to their crime" (White et al. 1993).

Furthermore, research demonstrates that the degree of aggressive response is proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed (Taylor 1993). Empirical data on jail and prison inmates suggest that alcohol consumption also appears to be associated with violence. Inmates are more likely to have been under the influence of alcohol prior to a violent crime than for an economic crime or other types of crime, except for alcohol-defined offenses. Still, other theories suggest that these patterns only represent association, not causation.

Percent of Crime Attributed to Alcohol and Drug Abuse

The brief review of data and theory about the relationship of drugs and alcohol to crime suggests several conclusions. First, both theory and evidence support attribution of a material proportion of income-generating property crimes to drug abuse. The same assertion can be made about the involvement of alcohol with violent crimes. Whereas there is substantial evidence linking drugs with violent crime and alcohol with property crime, the theoretical and evidentiary foundations for developing quantitative estimates of these relationships are not strong. Consequently, as for the prior major cost studies on alcohol and drug abuse, the objective has been to select plausible attribution factors.

The attribution factors used in this study for the drugs and crime relationship are bases on interviews with inmates in prisons and jails. For the alcohol and crime relationship, this study attributes about one-half of the violent crimes in which the perpetrator had been drinking alcohol and one-tenth of the property crimes.

Drug-defined crimes (e.g., dealing, trafficking, and possession) and alcohol-defined crimes (e.g., driving under the influence, public drunkenness, and liquor law violations) are attributed and 100 percent.

Alcohol and drug abuse attribution factors used in this study are presented in table 6.8. About 30 percent of inmates incarcerated for robbery, burglary, and larceny indicated that they committed the crime for which they were incarcerated in order to get money for drugs. About 2 to 5 percent of those incarcerated for violent offenses made the same attribution. However, the new attribution factor of 15.8 percent for drugs and homicide has been drawn from detailed data about the nature of murder circumstances and the relationship of offenders and victims compiled by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (U.S. Department of Justice 1994b).

Homicides, in which drugs are explicitly listed as a factor, plus "juvenile gang" and "gangland" killings, represented 15.8 percent of homicides for which circumstances could be identified. This rate is applied to all homicides, although the rate may be too low because it is likely that a higher proportion of homicides with unknown circumstances may have also involved drug dealing and trafficking.

Alcohol is attributed to about 50 percent of violent crimes where the perpetrator had been drinking (a total of about 30 percent of homicides and assaults and 22.5 percent of sexual assaults). One-tenth of property crimes where the perpetrator had been drinking are attributed, which is about 3 to 4 percent of all such crimes.

The estimated economic costs of crime attributable to drug abuse in 1992 were $18.4 billion (see table 6.9). The costs attributable to alcohol abuse were $6.4 billion.

Private legal defense services for those accused of crimes that are attributable to drug and alcohol abuse were $416 million. The total annual revenue for legal services for 1992 was $108.4 Billion (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1994). However, only about 2.6 percent of lawyers practice criminal law (this percentage of members of the American Bar Association belong to the criminal law section). This was allocated to alcohol and drug abuse (and nonalcohol and nondrug offenses) in proportion to the total of police protection services.

Victims of crime often incur medical expenses and/or damaged property. In 1992, medical services cost an estimated $400 million for injuries resulting from alcohol-related crime and $105 million from drug-related crime. Drug-related crimes cost about $193 million in property damage; alcohol-related crimes cost about $28 million in property damage.

What About Smoking?

If a true Christian should avoid the use of alcohol, should he not also give up tobacco? This is an important question that deserves careful study in the light of the latest scientific discoveries and the principles your Bible sets forth.

If you hope to find a text that says, "Thou shalt not smoke," you will be disappointed. Tobacco is not mentioned anywhere from Genesis to Revelation and for the very good reason that its use is of comparatively recent origin. It was not known in Bible times. In fact, Western Europe never heard of it until Sir Walter Raleigh imported it from Tobago during the latter half of the sixteenth century. Nevertheless the great principles of healthful living are so clearly enunciated in the Holy Scriptures that no one need be in any doubt as to what his attitude should be toward this habit.

In this connection, it is good to read the apostle Paul's inspiring challenge to Christians of the first century A.D. You will find it in the twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans: "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (verses 1-2, R.S.V.).

There is definite suggestion here that every individual is accountable to God for the condition of his body. Having been created by God in the beginning and redeemed by Him at Calvary, he belongs to Him by a dual tie. Consequently, he is not free to do as he pleases without reference to God's desires. He cannot with impunity debase, defile, or destroy his body if for no other reason than that God has a prior claim to it. God expects it to be presented to Him as a "living sacrifice," unmarred by self-indulgence.

The sacredness of the body was also emphasized by the apostle in his first letter to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (chapter 6:19-20, R.S.V.)

This is in full harmony with the teachings of Jesus who said, "if a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (St. John 14:23, R.S.V.).

Thus, the body of the consecrated Christian is a dwelling place of God through the Holy Spirit. It is God's home, God's temple. Consequently, its purity, health, and well-being are to be guarded as a sacred trust.

It is in the light of this great truth that all questions concerning eating, drinking, smoking, and the like should be considered. Every habit should be brought to the bar of conscience and asked, Is it helpful or harmful? Will it increase or decrease health and efficiency? Will it glorify or defile God's temple?

Thus confronted, smoking could not possibly be sustained.

Modern science has demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is one of the most dangerous habits anyone could acquire. In recent years, evidence has piled on evidence that it is one of the major destroyers of health. When all the facts are assembled, it may well be said that while liquor has slain its thousands, tobacco has killed its tens of thousands.

The following statement from Dr. Leroy E. Burney, Surgeon General of the United States, was published in the Congressional Record, May 21, 1958: "Many independent studies have confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that there is a high degree of statistical association between lung cancer and heavy and prolonged cigarette smoking...While there are naturally differences of opinion in interpreting the data on lung cancer and cigarette smoking, the Public Health Service feels the weight of evidence is increasingly pointing in one direction - that excessive smoking is one of the causative factors in lung cancer."

A study of 6,813 persons by the late Dr. Raymond Pearl, of Johns Hopkins University, shows that up to the age of fifty, the death rate of heavy smokers is more than double that of non-smokers. The number of non-smokers who survive to their seventieth birthday is one and one-half times that of the heavy smokers of the same age.

In his book, Conditional Reflex Therapy, Andrew Salter Affirms that "the heavy smoker pays with 34.6 minutes of life for each cigarette he smokes. The pack-a-day smoker pays with 11.5 hours for each pack he smokes."

Harry Dinkman, in Risk Appraisal, published by the National Underwriter Company, says, "Habitual smokers have a 62 percent higher incidence of gas on the stomach, 65 percent higher incidence of colds, 76 percent higher incidence of nervousness, 100 percent higher incidence of heartburn, 140 percent higher incidence of labored breathing after exertion, 167 percent higher incidence of nose and throat irritation, and 300 percent higher incidence of cough."

Dr. William J. Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, made the statement: "I do not smoke, and I do not approve of smoking. If you will notice, you will see that the practice of smoking is going out among ablest surgeons, the men at the top. No surgeon can afford to smoke."

Powerful evidence against cigarette smoking has been produced by the American Cancer Society, covering a study of the smoking habits of 187,766 men between the ages of fifty and seventy. Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond, director of statistical research for the American Cancer Society, and Dr. Daniel Horn, assistant director, summed up their findings thus: "Cigarette smokers die sooner than other men aged fifty to seventy, and they die mainly from heart attacks and cancer."

This report was based upon interviews in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and California. The interviewers first asked the individuals selected about their smoking habits, then checked on the causes of death of 4,854 of these men who died within the next twenty months.

Quoting again from the report: "It shows the death rate - from all causes among the cigarette smoker - to be up to 75 percent higher than among the men who never smoked. For men who smoked a pack-a-day of cigarettes or more, the death rate from heart disease and cancer is at certain ages double that of non-smokers.

"The risk seems to rise the more cigarettes are smoked..."

Of those since dead, 745 had smoked as much as a pack or more of cigarettes daily for years. This was 319 more deaths than would be expected if these men had died at the same rate as the non-smokers.

"Of these heavy cigarette smokers, 343 fell victim to heart attacks-163 more than would be expected to have done so. And 161 of them died of cancer, 98 more than expected."

Dr. Charles Cameron, director of the American Cancer Society, summarized the findings this way: "If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and are fifty years old, you have twice as much chance of dying within eighteen months as another man your age who has never smoked." Dr. Alton Ochsner, president of the Ochsner Medical Foundation, and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Tulane University, has given intense study to the relationship of smoking and cancer. Here are some of his findings:

"There is a complete parallelism between the consumption of cigarettes in the United States and the increase of lung cancer. Lung cancer has outstripped every other type of cancer in recent years. There's been an attempt to blame air pollution, but I'm sure air pollution has nothing to do with it. Washington University in Saint Louis has taken a robot machine that smokes cigarettes just like a human being and used this to apply smoke to animals. At the end of two years, 44 percent of the animals had a cancer right where the smoke had been applied. It was indistinguishable from the cancer we see in humans. "Lung cancer has gone up in the same proportion as cigarette consumption wherever studies have been made- in Holland, Denmark, England..." "Studies show that many boys now begin smoking at the age of nine or ten, whereas they used to start at about twenty. This has led to the peak incidence of lung cancer at the age of fifty or fifty-five instead of sixty-five as formerly..." After the age of fifty-five the incidence of lung cancer falls off. This is due to anchor factor. The individual who has been a heavy cigarette smoker for a number of years subjects his heart and blood vessels to the deleterious effects of tobacco and is likely to develop coronary thrombosis and die before he develops cancer of the lung." Research conducted in England is of particular interest because it culminated in a statement in Parliament that smoking is the principal cause of lung cancer. This was followed by instructions from the Ministry of Health to all local city councils on how to educate the public concerning the dangers of smoking. An official poster now being circulated throughout Great Britain carries this warning from the medical officer of health:

"It is my duty to warn all cigarette smokers that there is now conclusive evidence that they are running a greater risk of contracting cancer than nonsmokers. The risk mounts with the number of cigarettes smoked. Giving up smoking reduces the risk." One of the most impressive studies concerning the effects of tobacco was conducted in 1957-1958 by the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. Basis of the research were 564 Christians, chosen because they do not smoke or drink. Their records were compared with those of 8,128 members of other religious groups, all patients in Christian hospitals. The results, presented to the 1958 session of the California Medical Association, showed that among Christians, lung cancer is only one tenth as common as among the general population, and only three fifths as many suffer heart attacks.

Not only did fewer of the Christians in the test suffer heart attacks, but the age at which such attacks occurred was much more advanced than for the other patients. Only 2 percent of heart attacks occurred before the age of 44 among Christians, against 8 percent for the other group. Only 11.8 percent were seen in Christian patients under 54, against 30 percent for the non-Christian patients, and only 38 percent before the age of 64, against 62 percent for the public at large.

The only case of lung cancer found among the Christian patients occurred in a man who had smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for twenty-five years before joining the church.

With all this evidence to prove the harmfulness of smoking, it is surely high time for all sensible, reasonable men and women to give up this costly, health-destroying habit. And for all who love God and desire to present their bodies "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God," this becomes urgent and imperative. No one who regards his body as the temple of the Holy Spirit could deliberately destroy it with nicotine.

But how to break the habit?

Medical authorities have made these suggestions:

When you decide to stop smoking, stop it. Do it at once. Make a complete break. Destroy evidence of the habit, including cigarettes, cigars, ash trays, and lighters. If an urge to smoke come upon you, eat a piece of candy or an apple. Most effective still is earnest prayer for divine help. Tell God about your desire and your resolve. Open the door of your heart heavenward and the Holy Spirit, flowing in, will bring you both strength and victory.

Jesus the Light of the World
Strengthening Your Faith in Family through the Sacraments
Drug / Alcohol Effects On Society

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