Stricter alcohol policies, including taxes and sales restrictions, help lower the odds of alcohol-related homicides, according to new research at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University (BU).
The new findings highlight the importance of making tighter alcohol control policies as a way to help reduce violence, including homicide.
Alcohol is a known risk factor for homicide perpetration and victimization. Between 40 and 50 percent of homicides in the United States involve the use of alcohol by either the victim or perpetrator.
In addition, more than half of homicides involve people who are significantly impaired by alcohol, which means that their blood alcohol levels are at or above 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving.
Until now, however, it remained unknown exactly how alcohol policies — which include alcohol taxes and the number of places licensed to sell alcohol — relate to alcohol-related homicides.
For the study, the researchers analyzed the association between alcohol policies in place and the likelihood of alcohol involvement (either up to the legal limit of 0.08 or above that limit) among the 27,000 victims of homicide from 17 U.S. states between 2003 and 2012.
The data was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System. State alcohol policies for each year were characterized using the “Alcohol Policy Scale,” a measure of the policy “environment” based on 29 separate alcohol control policies.
Tighter, more restrictive state alcohol policies were protective when alcohol was involved in a homicide. In fact, a one percent increase in the restrictiveness of policies corresponded to a one percent lower chance of alcohol being involved among homicide victims.
“Given the risks involved with alcohol use, strengthening effective alcohol policies could help prevent homicides,” said Timothy Naimi, M.D., the study’s lead author who is a physician in general internal medicine at BMC and researcher at BMC’s Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine.
In addition, findings were similarly protective among important groups who account for a large proportion of deaths or who are particularly vulnerable, including young adult homicide victims, those who died in intimate partner violence-related homicides, and those who died from firearms-related homicides, including murders involving guns.
“Both alcohol and guns are significant social determinants of homicide, either considered independently or in combination, and it is important to recognize the potential of policy to help curb these critical problems,” said Naimi, who also is associate professor at both BU School of Medicine and BU School of Public Health.
The study is published online in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Source: Boston Medical Center