Volume 33, Issue 5 (September 1988)
Cocaine and Homicide in Memphis and Shelby County: An Epidemic of Violence
In Memphis and the surrounding county, there were a record number of homicides (179) in 1986. During the same year, there was a marked increase in medical examiner cases where tests were positive for cocaine or its metabolites. Review of medical examiner and toxicology records from 1980 to 1986 found 87 cocaine related deaths; 46 of these were homicides. In 1986 alone, there were 53 cocaine related deaths, all manners, and 31 cocaine related homicides. In this year, 17.3% of the homicides were positive for cocaine or metabolite. The cocaine related homicides were similar to other homicides in terms of age, race, sex, blood ethanol concentration, and cause of death being due most often to firearms. In homicide cases in which an abuse drug was detected, cocaine accounted for the entire increase in 1986. Police records indicated that cocaine directly contributed to the homicide in 39% of the cases in which the drug was found. In other cases, we speculate that cocaine altered behavior may have contributed to the victim's being murdered either during the drug “high” or during the posteuphoric depression or withdrawal phase.