250 News - Your News, Your Views, Now

October 27, 2017 9:24 pm

New Study Links Alcohol Use with Increased Crime

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 @ 2:48 PM

Prince George, B.C. – What happens when a person turns 19 and is of legal drinking age?  According to a new study by the Northern Medical Program at UNBC,  once a person reaches the legal drinking age,  there is a spike in crime.

The  research, led by Dr. Russ Callaghan,  involved  looking at  police reported crime stats  from 2009 to 2013.   The stats show,  a 7.6% increase in crime by  young males,  and  a 10.4% increase  among  females when compared to those  just under the legal drinking age.

“As soon as youth are given legal access to alcohol, there are immediate effects on their involvement in police-reported criminal behaviours,” says Dr. Russ Callaghan, the study`s lead author and an associate professor in the Northern Medical Program. “The number of police-reported criminal incidents involving both male and females who have just reached the legal drinking age rises dramatically, a pattern which illustrates the impact that alcohol-related legislation can have on crime including violent crimes and overall public health.

Dr. Callaghan says   the stats are based on police confirmed incidents “They don’t  have to result necessarily in arrest or charges,  but they are police confirmed so in some ways  it might be possible that individuals slightly under the legal drinking age might have  a lower incidence because they are young offenders, but that wouldn’t account for the sharp spike immediately after turning the legal drinking age”.

There may be some other factors,  such as  a young  person’s first time away from home, perhaps attending  post secondary  schools,  but Dr. Callaghan says the research is set up to  recognize  those possibilities “What we have is the rates , of  crime by people’s age in weeks. So what is the rate  of crime of people 18 years old in one week,  18 years old and two  weeks and so forth all the way up to the drinking age, and so the people who are  closest to the drinking age,  such as a week older than the drinking age opposed to a week younger will be very  similar in their social circumstance, their psychiatric functioning, their income and so forth, so you  can attribute the jump to crossing the drinking age.

This is another  in a series of studies  Dr. Callaghan  has done  on  the impact of alcohol  related legislation including the impacts on  young drivers,  in patient hospitalization for alcohol related injuries,  and deaths from alcohol related collisions.  Recently  the Canadian Public Health Association  recommended the  ideal legal drinking age be 21. Dr. Callaghan doubts  there is an appetite to make that jump “It is politically unpalatable to raise it, and so, it and I think one of the things this research shows is that these young people, as they transition across the  drinking age, incur a tremendous amount of alcohol related harms.  So I’m hoping to galvanize the discussion and get people to  think about alcohol  as not an ordinary commodity.  We many not be able to raise the drinking age here, because of the political climate, but one of the things we can do is we can think about other  alcohol  control policies that limit some of these harms.”

He points to changes such as a call for  zero alcohol  tolerance  in drivers up to the age of 25 as a possible restriction that could reduce  harm.

Many may think Europeans, who have much lower legal drinking ages,  don’t have any alcohol related harm  “That’s not the case” says Dr. Callaghan “They actually do have tremendous harms ,  especially  young males,  suicide, traffic injuries  assaults and other kinds of injuries as well.”

His research  shows the   alcohol related harms  among young people  drop off during the early 20’s “From my perspective, ideally that would be  best age to have it ( legal drinking age) but  we also have to face political realities.  There is a tension  between Public Health and individual choice here. At least in my research,  what I’m hoping to do is to provide some evidence for that conversation and that debate.”

He says the discussion is  needed in B.C. especially in the wake of the  recent alcohol policy reforms  to liberalize alcohol outlets and sales, “We need to make sure we understand these policies can have a big impact on youth and youth related harm and we really need to pay attention to that.”


Totally Shocked!
Now, if they were to do a study on drug use, with an increase in crime, I will be GobSmacked.

    In all seriousness I would actually love to see if they had studies on certain types of drugs vs. crime stats. With the whole marijuana-legalization being the hot topic these days, it’d be nice to see how it actually stands up compared to legalized drugs like alcohol. Not trying to push an agenda since I don’t have a dog in the fight, just legitimately curious if there is a spike with users of marijuana too.

      I agree. Crime rate before legalization and after might be interesting.

      They do have those stats in Colorado where since legalization all crimes, and particularily violent crimes, have dropped by twenty percent since legalization of marijuana….

    I wonder how much that study cost to see what most people all ready know lol.

      ya funny what everyone has known forever suddenly is true; only after someone with letters added to there name says it is.

Wow I am also GobSmacked, who would have thought.

Something that seems to be left out in this study is that in the states when the drinking age was returned to 21 there was a marked decrease in traffic incidents.

Now in BC and else where the age was lowered to buy votes, so no way any political party will raise the age no matter the carnage. It’s all bout votes not lives.

Really? who woud’a thunk.

… I need a drink

The article reports that there was “a 7.6% increase in crime by young males, and a 10.4% increase among females when compared to those just under the legal drinking age.”

I went to a report from February of this year which states that “Release from drinking-age restrictions was associated with increases in alcohol-impaired driving offenses perpetrated by young drivers in Canada, ranging from 28 percent-43 percent among males and 19 percent-40 percent among females.”

Not only are the numbers different but the way the info is presented is also different.

What it states in the February article differs quite a bit from the words: “once a person reaches the legal drinking age, there is a spike in crime.”

There is an increase in the “crime” specific to “drunken driving”.

Perhaps UNBC and Northern Health was not getting traction with the obvious result of the study as shown in February, and they had to sensationalize it.


    That is a link to the actual research paper.

    The title is “Impacts of drinking-age legislation on alcohol-impaired driving crimes among young people in Canada, 2009–13”

    The title says it all.

    It is the old church pew syndrome …. on one end one tells a short story ….. then listens to what the person at the end of the row tells the originator of the story ….. :-)

I wonder how many 19-21 year olds actually vote. Or for that matter how many read Opinion 250.I know that the small work crew at my work place. two are under 30, only me read it.

Comments for this article are closed.