chapter  6
16 Pages

Substance Abuse Disorders, Epigenetic Plasticity, and Criminal Behavior

Humans have an inordinate fondness for alcohol and other mind-altering substances; we gulp, sniff, inhale, and inject with a gusto that suggests sobriety is a dif¿cult state to tolerate. We drink to be sociable, to liven up our parties, to loosen our tongues, to feel good, to sedate ourselves, and to anesthetize the pains of life. Alcohol allows us to reinvent ourselves as superior people; the worried and the insecure become carefree and con¿dent, the timid courageous, the dif¿dent brash, and the wallÀower Àirtatious. The downside is the toll it takes in return, because alcohol is the greatest substance abuse threat there is. No other correlate, with the possible exception of gender, is as closely related to crime as alcohol abuse. Alcohol is linked to about 85,000 deaths a year, versus the “mere” 17,000 fatalities attributable to other illicit drugs (DrugWarFacts, 2008). City police of¿cers spend more than half of their law enforcement time on alcohol-related offenses. Estimates are that one-third of all arrests in the United States are for alcohol-related offenses, and that about 75% of robberies and 80% of homicides involve a drunken offender and/or victim (Schmalleger, 2004). About 40% of other violent offenders in the United States had been drinking at the time of the offense (Martin, 2001). The cost of alcohol abuse in terms of crime, health, family and occupational disruption is staggering. Crimes associated with alcohol and drugs combined were estimated to have cost the economy over 205 billion in 2005 (Miller et al., 2006).