Banning alcohol may have some seriously detrimental effects, according to a new study from the University of Louisville. Researchers found that ‘dry’ counties in Kentucky, or places that don’t sell alcohol, have a significantly higher rate of meth labs and meth arrests compared to places where drinking is legal.


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Kentucky’s post-prohibition drinking laws are probably the weirdest of any state. The Bluegrass State has 39 dry counties, 32 wet counties (where booze flows freely), and 49 counties that exist in an alcoholic gray area. These “moist” counties, if you will, include some wet cities or towns within an otherwise dry county.


The researchers found that in the 39 dry counties, meth lab seizures and overall meth arrests were significantly higher than in wet or moist counties. The researchers are looking at this correlation as more than happenstance and instead argue for the lack of booze as causation for the increased presence of meth. According to the study: “If all counties were to become wet, the total number of meth lab seizures in Kentucky would decline by about 25 percent.”

The researchers suggest that if residents of dry counties are already comfortable breaking the law to get drunk, or to bring liquor to a county where it’s illegal, they will be more than comfortable making and/or using meth, too. “Our results add support to the idea that prohibiting the sale of alcohol flattens the punishment gradient, lowering the relative cost of participating in the market for illegal drugs.”


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The Washington Post argues that the trouble in dry counties doesn’t begin or end with meth, either. They site additional studies that show Kentucky’s DUI rate is higher in dry counties, and that when counties turn from dry to wet, their drug-related deaths go down 14 percent.


The study illustrates the ways prohibition inspires illegal activity, even in 2015, almost a century after nationwide prohibition ended.

[via The Washington Post]