Which Came First: Alcohol or Crime?

In July 1982, Drs. Román Prypchan and Pedro Téllez Carrasco presented for their professional advancement a detailed study on 150 psychiatric skills entitled: “Problems in the Practice of Psychiatry in Venezuela. Analysis of some Sample Cases”.

In this work the authors found that alcoholic psychoses constituted 9% of the total sample. There were 9 cases of pathological inebriation, 2 with alcoholic delusions of jealousy, 1 case of alcoholic hallucinosis and 1 of alcoholic paranoia. Among the total number of sample cases there were 67 crimes against persons, subdivided into 49 homicides, 1 accessory to homicide, 6 uxoricides, 2 infanticides and 9 cases of injury. Upon correlation of alcoholic psychoses with crimes against persons it was observed that 10 alcoholic psychoses were responsible for 7 homicides, 2 uxoricides, and 1 case of injury. Only 2 cases were related to offences against property and 1 to an offence against morals. From this it can be deduced that the influence of alcohol was practically insignificant in the offences against property and morals, whereas in the crimes against persons its influence was most significant. It was noted, moreover, that the days when the greatest incidence of crime occurred, were on the weekends and holidays (a fact which has not varied since the beginning of the century).

Very interesting data may also be found in the work of other authors reviewed by Téllez and Prypchan. For example, Rendón Aponte and Arocha Echenagucia, in their work entitled “Homicide and Alcoholic Influence” among 2,220 delinquents in the Penitenciaría General of Venezuela, found that 616 of the 1,467 homicides were committed under the influence of alcohol; this goes to show that although alcohol is not a causative agent, it does facilitate the onset of crime. However, the case may be argued to the contrary: that the individual imbibes alcohol in order to work up courage for the crime.

On the other hand, in the work “Statistical Cause of Four Social Problems in Venezuela,” Ricovery López maintains that in 60% of the cases where blood was spilled, the causative agent was the influence of alcohol.

J.M. Echeverría reports in his study “Alcoholism and Crime” - “in marginal groups, vagrancy, crude language and drunkenness act together in causing violence. In these groups there is a marked tendency toward primitivism; social standards and controls lose their inhibitory effect and lead to crime, for which reason the greatest incidence of community disputes, use of knives, pointless injuries and homicides occurs in these environments during paydays, weekends, Christmas, Carnival and Holy Week.”

J.M. Mayorca, in an article published in a Caracas newspaper on the issue of advertisements for alcoholic drinks, reported that from 1970 to 1980 the per capita consumption of alcohol in Venezuela had increase from 103.74 to 176.27. As a consequence the number of suicides also increased from 243 to 285, and homicides from 1,002 to 1,576.

With regard to the question “Which came first, alcohol or crime?” we would have to ascertain not man’s first sin, but his first crime, and whether or not it was unleashed by alcohol. What is certain is that without actually causing crime, alcohol makes people aggressive and irritable even for a stupid reason. To confirm this you need only watch a few cowboy movies: at dusk they congregate in the tavern, at midnight they begin the shoot-out, and by dawn there is not a soul left to tell the tale other than one Manuel Matorrales who was the only male not drinking, because he had gastritis.

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Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com

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Lida Prypchan

Lida Prypchan

Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com

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