In this population-level study, we analyzed how well changes in drug and alcohol use among homicide victims explained declining homicide rates in New York City between 1990 and 1998. Victim demographics, cause of death, and toxicology were obtained for all homicide (N = 12573) and accidental death victims (N = 6351) between 1990 and 1998 from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York (OCME). The proportion of homicide and accident decedents positive for cocaine fell between 1990 and 1998 (13% and 9% respectively); the proportion of homicide and accident decedents positive for opiates and/or alcohol did not change significantly. Changing patterns of drug and alcohol use by homicide victims were comparable to changing patterns of drug and alcohol use in accident victims, suggesting that changes in drug and alcohol use among homicide victims between 1990 and 1998 cannot solely explain the decline in NYC homicide rates.
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