Ever since the 4th century BC, alcohol has already been associated with violence. This is defined as a person’s attempt or intention to harm someone else. Not only does it cause injury and some health problems, it can result in death as well. According to Graham and Livingston, alcohol-related violence can lead to as much as 248,000 deaths every year.
Alcohol Consumption and Violence
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), violence occurs due to alcohol’s effects on normal brain functioning.
For one, it can weaken the brain’s ability to control impulsive behaviors, including aggressive tendencies. That’s because alcohol lowers the levels of serotonin. This hormone is linked with impulsiveness and violence.
Alcohol can also impair information processing. This makes a drinker misjudge his/her surroundings. It may lead to a violent over-reaction to a ‘perceived’ threat.
It can also narrow a drinker’s attention. Such renders a person unable to assess the risks of acting violently.
Apart from alcohol’s direct effects on the brain, violence may stem from cultural and social factors as well. For one, it can make a person aggressive because he expects alcohol to make him/her feel that way.
A drinker may also act violently because he/she believes that other people would be more lenient towards his/her situation. Known as a ‘time out,’ this makes a drunk individual ‘immune’ to the conduct rulings of sober people.
Additionally, alcohol is oftentimes consumed in a situation where aggression is more likely to occur. For one, it is often consumed in sports bars where fans of opposing teams are congregated.
Alcohol and ‘Victimization’
Apart from promoting aggression, alcohol consumption can make the drinker – and the people surrounding him/her – victims of violence as well.
1. Domestic Abuse
Also known as intimate partner violence, it refers to behaviors that lead to physical, psychological, and sexual harm to a spouse or partner.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption is a major factor behind domestic abuse. In its studies, it has linked alcohol to 71% and 15% of intimate partner violence cases in Ethiopia and Japan respectively. In Canada, 7% of women and 6% of women admit to having been domestically abused by a drunk partner within the last 5 years.
The same alarming figures can be seen in the United States. According to the survey, 55% of assaults have occurred after a partner’s drinking spree.
An abuse victim usually suffers from many, if not all of the following problems:
- Physical beatings, such as hitting, slapping, and kicking.
- Psychological abuse, I.e. being belittled, humiliated, and intimidated.
- Partner control; isolating and restricting him/her from other people.
- Sexual abuse
Apart from that, intimate partner violence can also lead to the following complications:
- Suicidal thoughts and suicide
- Miscarriage or other pregnancy complications
To make matters worse, domestic abuse can be so much that it leads to death. To wit, 11% of homicide cases in the United States were committed by the intimate partner.
2. Child Abuse
With alcohol’s ability to promote violence, it has been associated with the rising cases of child abuse as well. Since alcohol can drain a parent’s savings, it can impair his/her ability to take care of the children. More than just being maltreated, these kids end up neglected as well.
Abused children often suffer from the following conditions:
- Injuries, including burns, fractures, and bruises
- Sleep disorders (due to stress)
- Psychological problems such as depression, fear, and attempted suicide
- Sexual abuse
According to WHO, about 35% of incidences include child abusers who have consumed alcohol or drugs just before their outbursts. With an average of 900,000 American kids being abused annually, this amounts to as much as 315,000 children victimized due to alcohol. This is already outside of the 57,000 deaths that have occurred due to child abuse.
3. Date Rape
According to the NIAAA, most men believe that alcohol can make them more aggressive. Additionally, they think that drunk women are more likely to give in to sex. Their intoxication also makes these ladies unable to fend off an attack. Given these factors, alcohol has become a strong precursor to date rape.
Violence and Alcohol Misuse
The relationship between alcohol and violence is a two-way street. Not only does drinking promote aggression, violence may lead to alcohol abuse as well. For one, intimate partners often end up consuming alcohol or drugs due to stress.
Such a pattern is also seen in abused children. According to WHO, those who were physically or sexually abused usually end up with similar drinking problems. The same can be said with those who barely had parental guidance.
These victimized children are usually more receptive to peer pressure. As such, this makes them at risk of alcohol addiction. Studies show that they are more likely to wed a partner with alcohol issues as well. With that being said, the cycle begins again – now with the victim being the abuser.
Because of alcohol’s contribution to violent incidents, the WHO recommends the following measures:
1. Government regulation
Since alcohol contributes to violence, it is only necessary to regulate the use of this substance. One way to do so is to control the prices and availability of liquor. WHO cites its effectiveness in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Strict regulation has led to a dramatic decline in alcohol-related abuse cases in the country.
2. Community training
Violence in bars and clubs may be reduced by adequately training the staff. As such, the WHO recommends educating bar or other related employees in conflict management. They should also be taught the proper enforcement of alcohol-related rules (i.e. ensuring the drinkers are aged 21 years old and above). These interventions, which were tried in Sweden, has led to a 29% decrease in violent crimes.
3. Treatment for problem drinkers
Even with alcohol regulation, addicts will find a way to drink. As such, WHO recommends intervention and treatment for these chronic drinkers. One good example is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It can help change the alcoholic’s bad behavior. According to studies, it can also reduce the violence between newly-abstinent drinkers and their partners.
Alcohol can change the brain, thereby making the drinker more aggressive. Unfortunately, it can lead to domestic abuse, child abuse, and date rape. To help curb the distressing figures, WHO recommends government regulation, community training, and outright treatment for alcohol addicts.
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