It seems as though the occurrence of alcohol-related violence has been steadily increasing, or at the very least we are hearing about it more often. According to one study published in Recent Developments in Alcoholism, the following percentages of violent crimes in one year involved alcohol: up to 86 percent of homicide offenders, 37 percent of assault offenders, 60 percent of sexual offenders, up to 57 percent of men and 27 percent of women involved in marital violence, and 13 percent of child abusers. If you’re lucky enough to have no personal experience with violence, domestic or otherwise, then odds are you’ve at least seen a television show or movie where someone was drinking heavily and became steadily more aggressive toward their partner or spouse. Is there an actual correlation between drinking and violence, or is there another story here?
If you’ve ever taken a statistics class (or psychology or law) you’ve probably heard the phrase “correlation does not imply causation,” or its Latin equivalent, post hoc ergo propter hoc, meaning “after this, therefore because of this.” What it means is that just because two events occurred together, one didn’t necessarily cause the other. For example, more kids are getting vaccinated these days, and more kids are also being diagnosed with autism, but it would be a fallacy to say that the vaccines cause autism.
This is the case with alcohol and violence. Certainly, alcohol can make people more aggressive. The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for planning, personality, and moderating social behavior, is affected when we drink. This is why you might find yourself standing on a table doing karaoke or going home with a stranger when you’re drunk. However, it doesn’t suddenly flip a switch and make you mean. If you’re already prone to solving your problems with violence, or if you have anger management problems, what alcohol will do is drown out the part of your brain that might ordinarily tell you to take a breath and back off instead of throwing a punch.
Ordinarily, if someone says something to make you angry, you probably go through a thought process something like, “Wow, that person is such a jerk; I really wish I could punch him. But, if I do that I’m going to ruin everyone’s evening and maybe even end up in jail, so I’m just going to walk away and ignore him.” If you’ve had too much to drink, you’re not likely to make it to the reasoning part, and you’ll just follow your gut instinct. Again, though, if you’ve never solved a problem with violence in your life, drinking isn’t likely to make it happen. That instinct has to be there in the first place.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.