Monday, February 25, 2013

Which Came First Poverty, Substance Abuse or Violence?

We've all heard the old question: Which came first the chicken or the egg? In a question that is very similar which came first; poverty or substance abuse? And, which has a greater effect on violence in a community?

The University of Michigan Health System had a press piece on a study they conducted looking at violence and the geographic relationship with drug offenses and alcohol. The conclusion reached by the study may answer that chicken and egg question. 

Results from the study indicate that types and densities of alcohol outlets were directly related to violent crimes despite the fact that alcohol outlets are typically viewed as locations in which other population or environmental factors, such as poverty or prostitution, relate to the violence.

The study also shows that drug possession, rather than drug distribution, has a positive relationship with violent crimes.  Features of adjacent areas, and activities occurring there, were also found to be significantly related to violent crime in any given “target” area.


It may be that the availability of substance abuse treatment and prevention may have a role in reducing community violence. There also may be a lesson for community planners. By reducing or being more selective about the number and types of alcohol establishments you may be able reduce the likelihood that a violent crime hotspot appears in a community.

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