You have seen drunk people do a variety of things they wouldn’t usually be caught in plain sight even fathoming possible. You’ve witnessed the most docile and sensible friends acting impulsive, seen the most serious people letting their hair down and having fun and even seen in pictures and videos of how your own drunk-self is a whole different personality. Basically, alcohol can change the way you normally act and one of the most commonly seen features is drunk people getting way too aggressive. Is there a link between alcohol and aggression and just why do drunk people fight so much?
Does alcohol cause aggression? A look into alcohol myopia
When the area of drunks being violent is studied, there is a theory that surfaces namely alcohol myopia. This essentially means that when drunk or high, a person misses social cues that would otherwise cause him or her to think straight and rationally. Thus, in instances where the person would have behaved according to social conduct, they end up acting of their own accord. “Alcohol is involved in half of all murders, rapes, and assaults, but the dynamics of this association are complicated, which is why any research that focuses on explaining this relationship is important for society in general,” says Robert O. Pihl, professor of psychology and psychiatry at McGill University.
The scientific reason is said to be because alcohol lowers activity in the areas of the brain that are responsible for inhibition, the areas that tell you how much is too much. You know the happy, easy-going, relaxed feeling that creeps in when you drink? That is your inhibition centres being silenced and you begin to lose a sense of what is morally right and not.
This causes people’s behaviours to change sometimes 180 degrees when they are drunk.
Science about alcohol and aggression
In a study that was led by Thomas Denson of the University of New South Wales in Australia, changes in the brain region linked to aggression were studied. There were two groups and one was given vodka, while the other was given a placebo.
The participants then were put under an MRI and had to compete in a task that has known to be used in tests of alcohol causing aggression. The scientists observed which brain regions were triggered in the participants and also how much alcohol triggered this.
"Although there was an overall dampening effect of alcohol on the prefrontal cortex, even at a low dose of alcohol we observed a significant positive relationship between dorsomedial and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activity and alcohol-related aggression. These regions may support different behaviours, such as peace versus aggression, depending on whether a person is sober or intoxicated," said Denson.
Why do people overreact and tend towards aggression after having alcohol?
When a person drinks too much, the impact on the brain by the alcohol causes them to feel threatened and thus minor conflicts may escalate into a full-blown act of violence, because human’s animal instinct is activated and they feel the need to guard themselves in the conflict.
"If individuals tend to express their anger outwardly, alcohol will 'turn up the volume,' so that such a person will express anger more frequently and more intensely. A heightened response will most likely occur when the provocation against the drinker is a strong one, and will less likely occur when the individual is experiencing a low provocation and is sober,” says Amos Zeichner, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Georgia
As BAC (blood alcohol content) levels shoot up, alertness levels go down and this coupled with a poor reaction time can cause the person to act on violent thoughts as future consequences are not paid heed to.
Should you argue with a drunk person?
Never. While someone who’s drunk and trying to irrationally point out why they are right may trigger you, it would be unwise to argue back. Arguing with a drunk would be futile as not only would nothing good come out of the situation, but in fact, they probably wouldn’t even recall it the next day.
Alcohol leads to aggression by suppressing many important functions of the brain. Reasoning, self-control and a calculation of risks are suppressed when you drink. Thus, the brain goes into a frenzy and has trouble processing what the other person is saying.
If you’ve ever tried reasoning with someone drunk or ever been the drunk who’s being spoken to by someone sober, you’d have noticed that the brain follows selective reasoning. Ignores the parts of the conversation that it isn’t interested in and filters out the parts that it finds it can react to.
How do you deal with a drunk person?
Being drunk makes one socially inebriated, but tougher is to be the one dealing with the drunk. Do you fight back when alcohol causes someone to engage in aggression?
No. Instead, take a look at how you should be dealing with the situation at hand.
- Don’t try to tell them or force them into making rational decisions, instead offer them options and let them decide
- Threatening them is the last thing you should be doing as this could act as a provoking factor to the violence
- Engage them in conversation, so as to keep their mind occupied and prevent it from making irrational choices
Never try arguing with a drunk person. Not much good can come out of it.