Years of research has long associated alcohol consumption with people’s attempts to regulate their mood, both positively and negatively. Often it is used to enhance positive emotions as a means of coping with a negative feeling. However, in many instances, it has a direct correlation with aggressive behavior. In repeated studies since the 1980s, initial and repeated use among alcohol abusers was to regulate and reduce negative feelings. Additionally, this has also been found to be the cause of relapse among recovering alcoholics.

Studies also illustrate that underlying mental health issues may surface during alcohol consumption depending upon the amount and frequency that alcohol is used. Sadly, those who drink to cope with underlying negative feelings, diminish their ability to deal positively with their emotions. The complexity of the situation is not merely related to consumption or skills building, but to a multiple of psychological and experiential variables.

In a recent international study conducted by BMJOpen (November 21, 2017) people, in 21 countries, 11 languages and ages 18-34 over the course of one year and two months, were surveyed using an online anonymous questionnaire. Participants consumed beer, red wine, white wine, and spirits. The goal of the study was to see whether specific alcoholic beverages were related to specific moods, demographics, choice of alcoholic beverage and frequency.1

The study stated that “Alcohol use is of international public health concern with approximately 3.3?million deaths and 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury attributable to alcohol consumption in 2014. In addition, there is a growing body of evidence illustrating the harms caused by those who drink alcohol to individuals around them and to wider communities (e.g., through alcohol-related violence and antisocial behavior).

Positive and negative emotions associated with consumption of different alcoholic beverages included feeling energized, relaxed, sexy, confident, tired, aggressive, ill, restless and tearful. “Findings suggest dependent drinkers …rely on alcohol to obtain the positive emotions they associated with drinking, being five times more likely to feel energized compared with low-risk drinkers … However, heavier drinkers also reported negative emotions more frequently with respondents being just over six times more likely to report feelings of aggression …, which may in part be a result of drinking greater quantities of alcohol in a session so increasing the impact on emotions. Spirits, were not surprisingly most frequently associated with aggressive emotions.

Alcohol Abuse and Aggressive Behavior

Alcohol impacts one’s emotions in a variety of ways. Many people do not realize the extent that alcohol is associated with aggressive behaviors. For example, alcohol is associated with 40% of all violent crimes committed in our society. Additionally, “among violent crimes, with the exception of robberies, the offender is far more likely to have been drinking than under the influence of other drugs.”

  • Statistics related to alcohol use by violent offenders show that about half of all homicides and assaults are committed when the offender, victim, or both have been drinking.
  • Two-thirds of victims who were attacked by an intimate (including a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been involved
  • 80% of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Alcohol, more than any illegal drug, was found to be closely associated with violent crimes, including murder, rape, assault, child and spousal abuse.2

Substance Abuse, Co-Morbidity, and Antisocial Personality Disorder

As stated earlier, alcohol often reduces inhibitions of underlying psychological issues. Research has demonstrated that the majority of substance abusers (including alcohol abuse) suffer from co-morbidity.

Substance abuse is highly prevalent among individuals with a personality disorder … The two most common personality disorders associated with substance use disorders are Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder. About 40% to 50% of individuals with a substance use disorder meet the criteria for ASPD and approximately 90% of individuals diagnosed with ASPD also have a co-occurring substance use disorder.

Characteristics of Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) (DMS-IV)

Diagnosis of this disorder requires only three of the below-mentioned list to be identified, so that one could, in fact, suffer from ASPD and be non-violent. Men are more likely to suffer from ASPD than women and are more likely to be aggressive.3

  • Repeated criminal acts
  • Deceitfulness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Repeated fights or assaults
  • Disregard for the safety of others
  • Irresponsibility
  • Lack of remorse

An example of a non-violent behavior, though the result may be violent, is driving while intoxicated. Drinking and drugged driving is the number one cause of death, injury, and disability of young people under the age of 21, and nearly 40% of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related.

Therefore, the underlying psychological issues will determine the impact drugs and alcohol have upon an individual, including the choice of drug or drink, and the resultant behaviors.4

Dealing with multi-leveled psychological and experiential variables may require the aid of professionals. Interventions should be tailored to the specific issues facing the addict or the alcoholic; alcohol abuse and drug use are the symptoms of a systemic problem. Cessation of use will not alter the underlying issues.