Intoxication, criminal offences and suicide attempts in a group of South African problem drinkers
Background. Incidence rates of crime and alcohol abuse in South Africa are unacceptably high. Research suggests a relationship between alcohol and both crime and suicide. This study aims to add to the information base on this topic in South Africa. Methods. This is a cross-sectional record study of criminal offences and suicide attempts in 269 admissions to an alcohol rehabilitation unit in the Western Cape. Types of criminal offences and suicide attempts are described. Relationships are sought between crime, violent crime and suicide attempts on the one hand, and demographic and alcohol-related variables on the other. Results. One hundred and four subjects (39%) had criminal convictions, the majority of which were committed while the subjects were intoxicated. The commonest alcohol-related crimes were driving-related (17% of subjects) and crimes of violence (15%). Male gender, younger age at initiation of drinking, and earlier onset of problem drinking were significantly associated with criminal behaviour. Violent crime was associated with earlier onset of initial, regular and problem drinking, and maternal alcohol abuse. Suicide attempts (24% of subjects) were associated with female gender, white racial group, not being in a marital relationship, younger current age and early age of problem drinking. Conclusions. There was an association between intoxication and both violent crime and suicide attempts. The importance of population studies and the need for intervention programmes aimed at teenagers who are drinking, are emphasised.