University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

Alcohol Linked to Crime More Often Than Illegal Drugs

Alcohol Linked to Crime More Often Than Illegal Drugs

(January 23, 2002)

A study by researchers at the Robert Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of California, Riverside shows that alcohol is far more likely to be linked with violent behavior than illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine or PCP.

“The stereotype is of the drug-crazed criminal,” said Robert Nash Parker, the lead investigator on the project. “The reality is something quite different.”

Parker, a professor of sociology, conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific literature on drugs, alcohol and violence. He said a survey of crime victims showed that more than one fourth of the assailants in violent crimes were reported by the victims to be under the influence of alcohol while fewer than 10 percent were under the influence of an illegal drug. The Presley Center study found that in cases of homicide, alcohol is “overwhelmingly” the drug most frequently mentioned.

His findings have been used as the basis for a report in “Prevention File: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs,” a quarterly magazine founded at UC San Diego in 1986. It is now published by The Silver Gate Group and distributed to 23,000 individuals and organizations across the country.

“I think the states are taking a look at the kind of spending they’ve been engaging in for the last 10 years or so,” Parker said. “A lot of that spending has been driven by the very unfortunate policies that emphasize putting drug offenders away for relatively long periods of time. People are coming to see that this has had very little impact in terms of reducing crime, and the cost is quite enormous.”

Parker and his colleagues draw a distinction between violence associated with the use of a drug, and violence resulting from drug trafficking, when competing factions use violence to protect their market share. “If you really want to have effective policies related to drugs, if you want to have fewer bad outcomes in terms of health, welfare and violence, the drug you want to focus on is alcohol,” Parker said. “The evidence is pretty powerful and pretty convincing if someone is willing to look at it.”

That is not likely to happen, Parker said, because the alcohol lobby has the financial and political power to fight against further regulation. “There’s a lot of resistance to the idea that alcohol is a factor in violence.”

He said the most fertile ground for change is at the local level, as communities decide on zoning laws that keep liquor stores away from schools, or limit the number of alcohol vendors in a certain neighborhood.

Related link:

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Media Relations
900 University Avenue
1156 Hinderaker Hall
Riverside, CA 92521

Tel: (951) 827-6397 (951) UCR-NEWS
Fax: (951) 827-5008

Related Links