Link Discovered Between Opioid Addiction and Murder Rates
There is no denying that certain addictions can lead people to violence. But do they actually drive up murder statistics? That’s what Vox.com is claiming in a lengthy new article that ties America’s opioid crisis to the recent spike in national homicides.
Tragically, both statistics appear to be on the rise. Within the past three years, the opioid epidemic has led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths, spiking up more than 20 percent from 2015 to 2016. Interestingly, the U.S. murder rate has also risen; ticking up 2 percent during the same time frame. According to University of Missouri researcher Richard Rosenfeld this is no coincidence. He believes that the illicit painkiller trade has contributed to America’s increased crime wave and has stats to prove it.
Vox reports that beginning in 2011, the opioid epidemic began to shift from traditional prescription pills to harder narcotics like heroin. This brought the crisis more into “street drug” territory, with dealers, robberies and underworld crime elements. Substances like illegal fentanyl also play a role in this (according to Vox), since they are now one of the most in-demand black market drugs.
“As demand for illicit drugs increases, people enter the underground drug market to purchase the drug,” Rosenfeld explained. “Those underground markets tend to be relatively volatile and sometimes violent places, so I’m suggesting that what we’re seeing here is a spike in drug-related homicides associated with drug transactions that become violent.”
One other statistic that Rosenfeld brings into the equation concerns race. His findings show that White Americans account for some of the sharpest spikes in U.S. murder rates, particularly since 2014. He went on to explain that white communities have been hit extremely hard by the opioid crisis and now may be more involved in the illegal buying and selling of these painkillers.
“That murder rate increase among whites is really quite notable,” Rosenfeld added. “It’s the largest single-year percentage increase in white homicides, with the exception of the 2001 terrorist attack, since the early 1990s. When you compare that to the opioid addiction statistics, a story starts to emerge.”
Rosenfeld goes on to warn Vox readers about the potential of gang and organized crime elements entering the opioid equation. Indeed as the crisis grows and more illegal painkillers are being sold, there is a larger probability that dangerous criminals will take part in the trade (if they haven’t already).
Rosenfeld did admit that there are still some holes in his theory and more analyses are needed, but he certainly could be looking in a realistic direction. “There’s a lot we don’t know,” Rosenfeld concluded. “But this is still a hypothesis worth mulling over — since it could suggest that the opioid crisis has even further reaching effects than we originally thought.