What is the connection between drinking and violent behaviour?

When some people drink, they may become aggressive or abusive. This is how that happens and what you can do to avoid it.

Illustration of a person shouting

Alcohol acts on brain centres that are involved in aggression and lowers inhibitions that may ordinarily keep aggressive impulses in check (1, 2). As a result, when some people drink excessively, they may become abusive or violent towards other people, get into physical fights or drive aggressively.

An association between some violent behaviour and excessive drinking has been shown, both for the aggressor and for victims (3). Experts agree that violence is a product of many factors – mental health, social acceptance of aggressive and violent behaviour, and particular situations and contexts (2, 4-7). After all, violence occurs in the absence of drinking and most people who drink don’t become violent.

If you find that your behaviour is changing as you drink and you’re becoming aggressive in the way you respond and act, the best thing to do is stop drinking. And in the future, you should reconsider when and how much you drink. You may also benefit from consulting with a health professional.

On the other hand, if drinking makes you feel unsafe or you’re concerned because of someone else’s drinking, it’s best to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation and get help from someone you trust – support and shelter are available.

Are you concerned about the effects of drinking on your body?