January is an opportune time to look back on annual statistics regarding dying of unnatural causes in our modern society. As a former Medical Examiner and practicing consulting forensic pathologist, I investigated all causes of unnatural deaths, including homicides, suicides, and accidents. And today, I know citizens also worry about deaths caused by drunk driving and gun violence. But what kind of a threat do these incidents really pose?
First off, driving while intoxicated is indeed a significant cause of accidental death. But today, in many “nanny states,” government officials think only the government can protect us from ourselves. So they push down the standards for “intoxication” to ridiculously low levels. In fact, in many nanny states, any man who has had two drinks and any woman who has indulged in just one drink would qualify as a “drunk driver” under proposed new laws.
But according to the actual science, that low-to-moderate amount of alcohol does not measurably impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. Plus, research consistently shows this moderate amount of alcohol helps protect you from a number of common chronic diseases over the long-term. But being scientifically correct has nothing to do with political correctness.
The hidden influence in most DUIs
Forensic science studies show the majority of vehicular accidents resulting in deaths involve drivers who are literally “blind drunk” with 10 or 12 drinks in their system. (These drivers are so drunk their two eyes can’t converge or focus. They are literally “blind drunk.”)
Typically, today’s drunk driver also has recreational drugs in the blood. In fact, I consulted on vehicular collision cases not long ago where both drivers were highly intoxicated on drugs and alcohol, so it was a matter of mitigating the lesser of two evils.
But in my view, the potential danger of drivers intoxicated with drugs is greater because of the problem of the unknown. You see, unlike alcohol consumption, no safe level has been established for driving while taking intoxicating drugs. It is simply not known. Apparently, it’s easier for the government to harass innocent, sociable, moderate-drinking citizens rather than it is to go after the drug users and problem drinkers. They place emphasis on all the wrong things.
Likewise, some politically correct politicians and health “experts” even want to eliminate all alcohol consumption by anyone, against all evidence, to “protect” the population as a whole (as they are doing with smoking). Yet, ironically, many of this same group wants marijuana legalized, although it causes an ever-growing number of vehicular fatalities in states where it has been approved for “medical” use.
Legalized marijuana doubles rate of fatal vehicular accidents
For example, in Colorado, the number of fatal accidents that involved at least one driver who tested positive for marijuana had been pretty stable. Then in 2009, Colorado legalized medical marijuana. And the fatal accidents involving this controlled substance began to skyrocket.
In fact, in a recent study, researchers looked at all the data from the first six months of 2004 — before the state legalized medical marijuana. Then, they compared it to data from the last six months of 2011 — after legalized medical marijuana was in full swing.
They found the number of fatal accidents involving this drug more than doubled. In less than 10 years! Plus, Colorado’s fatality numbers in 2011 were significantly higher than the other 34 states in the country without legalized medical marijuana.
But, again, when it comes to political correctness, common sense, consistency, and the real science don’t matter.
Guns cause the LEAST “unnatural” deaths
Of course, many people today also have concerns about gun violence that stems from the recent terrorist attacks and mass shootings. And many politicians now push for ever-stricter gun laws.
But studies show areas with more laws against legal gun ownership have higher rates of gun violence. (Inevitably committed by criminals with guns that are illegal in the first place.) And of course, we now know many of the most recent mass homicidal shootings involved mentally ill individuals who took psychiatric medications that induce violence.
So what are the actual numbers?
In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, 33,636 people died from firearms (homicides, suicides and accidents), and 35,369 from motor vehicle accidents.
By comparison, a whopping 46,471 people died from drug overdoses.
Half of those people died from prescription painkillers (includes intentional and unintentional; suicide and accidents) or heroin (accidental; although a form of slow suicide). Of course, these drug statistics don’t even count the number of firearm deaths caused by people taking violence-inducing psychiatric drugs. If they did, the numbers would look even higher.
Now — let’s look more closely at firearms.
First, people commonly use guns to commit suicide. (Again, people who commit suicide are also typically taking recreational and/or psychiatric drugs, and/or alcohol at the time they use guns to commit suicide.) Typically the suicide rate is about twice the homicide rate (which also more often than not involves some level of drug and/or alcohol intoxication).
Leaving out accidents gives us about 22,000 gun-related suicides and 11,000 gun-related homicides involving firearms. Again — a much smaller number compared to drug-related deaths.
The government Drug Enforcement Agency says Mexican gangs remain the greatest criminal threat to the United States. And here’s one case where I actually agree with a government agency.
The real No. 1 killer
Drugs cause the majority of “unnatural cause” deaths each year. Not fundamentalist terrorists. Not insane mass shooters. Not even guns. (Except for the guns given to Mexican drug gangs by the administration in the White House.)
It’s all about drugs.
Plus — the drug problem in this country is even bigger than these numbers suggest. To the 46,471 deaths from drugs, it would be fair to add a large number of the 33,636 firearm deaths. Drugs most definitely caused or contributed to a large number of them. Plus, we can add at least half or more of the 35,369 motor vehicle deaths due to drugs or severe alcohol intoxication.
But the statistics don’t lie…Or do they?
- “2015 Drug Threat Assessment Summary,” Drug Enforcement Agency (www.dea.gov) 10/2015