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State policies can reduce alcohol-related murders

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(HealthDay News) -- Taxes, sales restrictions and other policies aimed at alcohol control appear to reduce the likelihood that murders and other violent crimes will be alcohol-related, according to a new study.

The researchers, from Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University, investigated whether alcohol policies had an impact on murders involving people who had been drinking. The investigators examined existing alcohol policies and analyzed 27,000 homicides in 17 states between 2003 and 2012 to assess the likelihood that these crimes were alcohol-related.

They found that more stringent state alcohol policies helped reduce the odds that alcohol was involved in violent crimes. A 1 percent increase in the limits set on the sale and consumption of alcohol was associated with a 1 percent lower risk for alcohol-involvement among murder victims.

"Given the risks involved with alcohol use, strengthening effective alcohol policies could help prevent homicides," said study lead author Dr. Timothy Naimi. He is a researcher at BMC's Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine.

The researchers noted that state policies restricting alcohol also reduced violent crime risk among young adults, intimate partner-related homicides and murders involving guns or other firearms.

"Both alcohol and guns are significant social determinants of homicide, either considered independently or in combination," Naimi said in a hospital news release. "It is important to recognize the potential of policy to help curb these critical problems."

Alcohol is a known risk factor for homicides, the study authors explained. In up to 50 percent of such deadly crimes in the United States, either the victim or the assailant had been drinking. In about half of these incidents, someone was heavily impaired by alcohol, Naimi's team noted.

The study was published online Sept. 21 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information on alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

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