Alcohol & Drugs
Alcohol has highest connection to violence – By Gary Fields USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Eighty percent of people behind bars were involved with alcohol or other drugs at the times of the crimes, a report says. And, alcohol plays a role in a greater number of violent crimes than crack or powder cocaine, according to the report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York.
The three-year study released Thursday found that 1.4 million of the 1.7 million people serving time in the nation’s jails and prisons committed crimes while they were high, stole property to buy drugs, have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or are in jail for violating drug or alcohol laws.
The 281-page report concludes that criminal activity because of drugs and alcohol is the overwhelming reason the nation’s prison population has risen nearly 239% since 1980, when 501,886 people were behind bars.
“People think prisons are full of James Cagney types and psycopaths, but they are actually full of alcoholics and drug addicts, and we can deal with that through treatment,” says Joseph Califano Jr., president of the center and former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.
But few of the hundreds of thousands of people who could be turned into respectable taxpayers and parents are ever treated, Califano says. Instead, they are released back into the community as criminals.
“We’re not protecting the public safety because we aren’t treating the problem, and we’re supporting the illegal drug market because we are just sending customers back.”
Among the study’s findings:
Taxpayers spent $38 billion in ’96 to build and maintain the nation’s 4,700 prisons.
– By 2000, one out of 20 U.S. residents will spend time in jail. That includes one out of 11 men and one out of four black men.
– By 2000, taxpayers will pay $100 million a day to incarcerate criminals.
– Repeat offense rates are directly linked to drug use. Forty-one percent of first time offenders in state prisons used drugs regularly, while 81 % of the people with five or more convictions were habitual drug users.
One of the study’s key findings is the prevalence of alcohol in violent crimes. Twentyone percent of the people serving time for violent crimes – including murder, rape, spousal and child abuse and assault – were under the influence of alcohol at the time the crime was committed. Only 3% of the violent offenders were under the influence of crack or powder cocaine.
Jack Levin, director of the Program for the Study of Violence and Social Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, says the role of alcohol in violence is not surprising. Neither is the fact that most people ignore that role, he says.
It’s easy to look at crack addicts as deviants and perverts prone to violence,” he says. “It’s much harder to see people at a cocktail party that way because that requires us to look at ourselves.”
To Your Health: Can A Drink A Day Keep Disease Away?
As a preventive health-care specialist, Dr. Borio encourages patients to make nutrition a priority. But, keeping abreast of nutritional research can be a daunting challenge. Although Tv, newspapers and magazines inundate us with nutritional information these days, it’s often hard to make sense of all the “sound bites,” especially when the messages are contradictory or change over time. And going to the source – medical journals – can be equally as confusing for lay people, if not more so.
That’s why Dr. Borio provides patients with research-based nutritional infor mation that’s easy to digest (no pun intended). By addressing one topic at a time with clear and concise explanations in “plain English,” Dr. Borio helps patients effortlessly grasp complex nutritional concepts – and learn to comfortably make related dietary modifications. This week’s topic: the health benefits of moderate alcoholic consumption.
You may have heard that drinking in moderation (one to two drinks a day) promotes wellness. Moderate drinking is sited as a key factor explaining the “French Paradox” (the curious fact that the high-fat French diet does not promote the rates of heart disease triggered by lower-fat diets). But, just how does moderate alcohol consumption prevent disease? Scientists at the University of Buffalo have unraveled some clues to this ongoing mystery. It seems that drinkers have reduced odds of developing a disorder called syndrome X. This syndrome which is linked with heart disease, cancer and diabetes – is characterized by abnormal levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Research also shows that alcoholic beverages – especially red wine are brimming with disease-fighting antioxidant chemicals. These compounds destroy the free-radical molecules associated with cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders.
Read on to learn how moderate alcohol intake may stave off specific diseases.
Wine to Warm Your Heart
Moderate alcohol consumption can slash an individual’s risk of death from heart disease, according to a report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
Investigators followed 21,537 male physicians for 12 years. At the onset of the trial, all subjects were free of heart problems. After controlling for various risk factors of heart disease, researchers found that men who drank two to four drinks a week were 40% less likely to experience sudden cardiac death, compared with men who rarely or never drank alcohol. Men who drank five to six drinks a week had a 21 % reduced risk. In contrast, heavy drinkers who consumed more than five drinks a day exhibited an increased risk of heart maladies (Circulation 1999;100:944).
Another study enrolled men living in the Czech Republic. Subjects who consumed half to one liter of beer a day enjoyed a significantly lower rate of heart attack, compared with nondrinkers. However, the protective effect of the alcohol was lost in men who drank more often (British Medical Journal 2000;320: 1378-9).
Sip Away Stroke Risk
Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption (one to seven drinks per week) staves off stroke. One analysis followed 13,329 women for 16 years. Participants who reported drinking wine on a monthly, weekly or daily basis enjoyed a 16%, 34% and 32% lowered stroke risk, respectively. This correlation remained even after researchers controlled for various factors such as age, gender and smoking. Investigators failed to demonstrate a similar protective effect for beer or spirits. In fact, weekly beer intake boosted a person’s risk of stroke by 9% (Stroke, 1998;29:2467).