A new study by researchers at the University of New South Wales suggests that people who drink or dope are at a greater risk of becoming homicide victims, as they react differently to dangerous situations.
The new findings are the result of an analysis of the autopsies of 485 homicide victims in New South Wales over 10 years.
"Things that happen when you are intoxicated don't usually happen when you are sober. People say things they would not normally say, or they take offence, or they misinterpret something and a fight starts, and someone ends up dead. The great tragedy is that many of these people would probably still be alive if they had been sober at the time of the incident," the study's author, Professor Shane Darke, of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW, said.
During the study, the researchers found that 68 per cent of male homicide victims had a substance—such as alcohol, cannabis, heroin, crystal methamphetamine, cocaine or benzodiazepines—in their blood at the time of their death.
They have revealed that 46 per cent of the victims testes positive to alcohol, 24 per cent to cannabis, and 10 per cent to stimulants.
"These figures are stratospheric when compared to the rest of the population. Only about 9 per cent of the population are daily drinkers and 2 per cent daily cannabis users, but they are grossly over-represented in these statistics," Darke said.
He further said that people who died because of a fight were more likely to consume alcohol or cannabis in their systems, while individuals who were shot dead were more likely to be on heroin or methamphetamine.
"If you are heavily addicted to a drug or involved in drug dealing, violence is often swirling about you, but we found in this study that the most common victims were men at the pub or on the street at night, or women at home," he said.
The study also demonstrated that almost half of domestic violence victims had alcohol in their blood, 21 per cent tested positive to cannabis, and 29 per cent had an illicit drug in their system.
"Usually a couple has been drinking at home and gets into a fight. They have access to knives in the kitchen and someone ends up dead," Darke said.
"We often talk about the risks of overdose and disease when we think about illegal drugs [but] we also need to talk about the substantial risk of violent death. The message from this study is that people are taking great risks when they drink or take drugs, and it's not just from the substances themselves," he added.