It’s a light-hearted thing to say: “I’m a fun drunk”, “I’m a happy drunk”, or “I’m a crazy drunk.” Perhaps these all should spark debate themselves — after all, What does it say about someone who’s completely in tune with the way excessive alcohol use affects their personality? But one such phenomenon is especially troubling: the concept — and existence — of the angry drunk.
In this piece, we’ll talk about why some people are more prone to anger and violence when they drink, including how alcohol affects the brain, and why angry alcoholics are common.
What Is an “Angry Drunk”?
An angry drunk is someone we’ve all probably come into contact with at one time or another. You’re out having a drink with friends or enjoying a party and there’s one person who seems to be looking for trouble. He, or she, is being excessively rude or aggressive, and the more they drink, the more likely it seems that they’ll fly into a violent rage.
An empirical review of violent crime performed by researchers and published by the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggested that alcohol is a factor in a large number of violent crimes. The report shows that alcohol was involved in 86% of homicide cases, which is the clearest link, but not the only one. Other cases involving alcohol includes:
- 60% of sexual abuse cases
- 57% of domestic abuse cases involving a male offender
- 27% of domestic abuse cases involving a female offender
- 13% of child abuse cases
Additionally, the report states that in 51% of cases concerning violent crime, the victim said they believed the offender had been drinking alcohol prior to the incident in question.
The Chicken and the Egg Debate
Clearly, the “angry drunk” is so much more than an exaggeration. But what comes first? Are heavy drinkers more prone to violence and aggression, or are these behaviors tied in some way to alcoholism?
There’s compelling evidence supporting the belief that alcohol sparks aggression. In the same report, however, the NIAA points to many variables that indicate the likelihood of abuse prior to alcohol use.
One phenomenon is “the cycle of abuse” — family members engaged in substance abuse are more likely to inflict physical, psychological, or other trauma onto their family members. Many of those recipients are children. Abuse and other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) dramatically increase the chance that a person will end up abusing drugs and alcohol themselves in the future.
Another example is simply the possibility that people who engage in heavy drinking are more likely to take risks in their lifestyle. Hanging out with other substance abusers can inevitably lead them into circumstances where hostility and violence is more likely.
The actual answer to the question of which comes first, unfortunately, isn’t known for sure. With that in mind, scientific studies of how alcohol impacts the brain shows that excessive alcohol intake stirs up rage in some individuals. These alcoholic rage symptoms cause people to become violent and aggressive, even when the outlet is someone they seem to love or care about.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
What types of people are prone to anger when they drink? Are aggressive people more likely to drink or does drinking make people more aggressive? Are there certain genetic factors that predict whether someone will be an angry drunk? When we look at some of the science concerning how alcohol affects the brain, we see that the angry drunk may be a combination of several factors.
People With Higher Testosterone Are More Prone to Aggression
Anger and violence when drinking often show themselves in a macho manner, and males are far more likely to be aggressive while intoxicated. Some men — especially younger men — have higher levels of testosterone than their peers. According to the NIAAA report, a person’s testosterone levels may help predict the type of person who will become an angry drunk with the consumption of alcohol.
Present-Minded People Are More Likely to Be Angry Alcoholics
In a study published in Science Daily, researchers found that people who are shortsighted are less likely to think about the consequences of their actions. Alcohol exacerbates this. Therefore, people who tend to live in the now are more likely to make snap decisions when they’re intoxicated. This doesn’t always result in anger and aggression, but if a person is predisposed to these traits, then the inhibition-lowering tendencies of alcohol can cause them to more readily express it and act on it. And, statistics show that angry drunks are more prone to end up in trouble with the law.
How Does Alcohol Lower Inhibitions?
We know what drives alcohol users and abusers to continue drinking. Like benzos and other drugs, molecules of alcohol interact with the brain’s GABA receptors, prompting the release of dopamine. This lights up the risk-reward centers in the brain.
Another chemical pathway in the brain is responsible for people acting before thinking when they drink. Alcohol consumption stimulates the release of norepinephrine, the chemical responsible for excitement and arousal. This naturally makes us even more short-sighted, with less regard for the consequences of our actions. In most people, this lowers the barriers to risky behaviors. In people predisposed to anger and aggression, those behaviors often evolve into angry outbursts and violence.
How to Address Tendencies of the “Angry Drunk”
Many individuals with established behavioral patterns that result in alcohol consumption are aware of these tendencies because they drink heavily on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the only way to protect yourself from being someone you don’t like or who makes bad decisions when consuming alcohol is to limit your alcohol intake and consume less, which isn’t an easy task. Dealing with an angry alcoholic is challenging, and sadly, it’s likely your behavior is taking a toll on your friends’ and loved ones’ willingness to spend time with you in certain situations.
If you’re looking for relief from your alcohol addiction, FHE Health can help. Feel free to reach out at any time and learn more about opportunities to get the help you need to recover from alcoholism. Our caring team of advisors are here 24/7 to answer your call. Get in touch us today at (833) 596-3502.