The link between alcohol and aggression

The stereotype of “angry drunk” may actually be deeply ingrained, at least for some people who associate alcohol with anger. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, alcohol use is more closely related to aggressive behavior than any other type of psychotropic drug. But drinking alcohol can cause different behaviors in different people.

Robert O. Pihl, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at McGill University, said: “In all murders, rapes and assaults, alcohol is involved in half.” “But the dynamics of this association are complex. That’s why any research focused on explaining this relationship is important to society as a whole.”

Understand anger and aggression

Anger is a strong emotion you feel when something goes wrong or someone wrongs you. Aggression refers to a series of behaviors that may cause physical and psychological harm to yourself, others, or objects in the environment.

“Trait anger” refers to a person’s general tendency to experience chronic anger over time. Angry people tend to look for stimuli that arouse anger. This may explain why they are more likely to be angry and behave more aggressively than people without this personality trait.

How alcohol affects aggression

Alcohol has different emotional responses to different people. For example, it can make some people sad while others are angry. If you have a natural tendency to be angry, drinking alcohol may make you aggressive.

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There are many cognitive, neurobiological, and social factors that influence how alcohol affects aggression.

The effects of alcohol may also be due to the effects of neuroinflammation, and the situation becomes worse due to the effects of heavy drinking on the gut/microbiota and nutrition. For example, research shows that alcoholics lack omega-3 fatty acids, which is related to violence.

Risk factors

According to a study, the following risk factors may increase the risk of alcohol-related attacks:

  • As a male
  • Drunk
  • Has a high level of idiosyncratic anger
  • Personality with a sense of pursuit
  • Potentially irritable
  • Have friends or relatives who are aggressive under the influence of alcohol
  • Lack of empathy

Drinking cocktails containing energy drinks should also be considered as possible factors for aggressive behavior. Researchers surveyed 175 young people who mixed alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks to learn about their verbal and physical aggressive behavior in bar conflicts. The results showed that the number of people drinking these beverages has been upgraded enough, so these beverages are labeled as “potential risks” that increase hostility.


Among the physiological and behavioral effects of alcohol studied in many studies, one is to relieve inhibition, or reduce the control of impulse or impulse after intoxication. Uninhibition will prevent you from inhibiting or changing aggressive behaviors that are not suitable for your situation.

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“If people tend to express their anger outwards,” said Dr. Amos Zeichner, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, “alcohol will’turn up the volume’, so such people will express their anger more frequently and more intensely. When the person’s provocation is strong, a higher response is most likely to happen, while when the individual experiences low provocation and is sober, it is less likely to happen.”


A study found that long-term drinking reduces the function of the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in impulse control. Researchers also link impulsive alcohol-related behaviors with genetic involvement. The presence of the serotonin 2B receptor gene (HTR2B) plays a role in impulsive and aggressive behaviors under the influence of alcohol.

Lack of impulse control may make a person unable to resist sudden, strong anger or the urge to take positive action.

Cognitive function

Alcohol impairs cognitive function, which means it is more difficult to solve problems, control anger, and make good decisions while drinking. Decreased cognitive function also means that you are more likely to misread the situation and overreact. For example, if you are drunk, you may consider someone who accidentally bumped into you as a provocation and respond positively.

Not paying attention to the consequences

It has been found that people who tend to ignore the future consequences of their actions or who score lower on the Consider Future Consequences (CFC) scale show more aggressiveness. According to a 2012 study, this situation is exacerbated when drinking alcohol.

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Alcohol and domestic violence

When it comes to alcohol and anger, intimate partner violence is very worrying. Violence can occur in marriages, long-term partnerships, and dating relationships.

In a 2017 report, researchers shared their findings on the relationship between alcohol and dating violence. The study included 67 undergraduate men who are currently dating someone.

The study concluded that alcohol increases the risk of physical aggression in men with high anger traits and poor anger management skills. It also pointed out that even among men with low characteristic anger and reasonable anger management skills, alcohol can lead to higher levels of sexual assault.

Some biological factors that cause alcoholism may also play a role in increasing the risk of intimate partner violence. These factors include head injury, neurochemistry, physiological responses, metabolism, and genetics.

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If you or someone you love is struggling with aggressiveness and alcohol abuse, you can seek help. Consult a mental health professional and/or addiction specialist who can provide resources and advice on treatment options.