Alcohol, Drugs and Violence

Without doubt, interpersonal violence and substance use are strongly linked and present a major public health challenge. Individuals who are under the influence of a psychoactive substance or withdrawing from it, are at greater risk of becoming violent towards anyone, including co-workers, family members and even children. Furthermore, consuming alcohol and/or using drugs not only increases the risk for perpetrating violence, but also for experiencing violence. 


Often times, people have a few drinks to help them relax or to feel more confident or social. However, in some people, alcohol can cause undesirable effects such as aggression. Alcohol has been found to be the drug most implicated in sexual assault, suicide, verbal aggression, domestic violence and physical aggression towards acquaintances and strangers. 

  • The strongest single predictor of injury to a victim of domestic violence is a history of alcohol abuse in the perpetrator. 
  • The most predictive factor for elder abuse is alcohol abuse in the caregiver. 
  • Alcohol abuse and dependence constitute the #2 diagnosed cause of suicide. 

Alcohol is also the most widely used and abused psychoactive substance in the world. About 14.5 million people in the U.S. report having an alcohol use disorder in the past year.  


Similar to alcohol, intoxication or withdrawal from drugs such as sedatives, cocaine, amphetamines, and opiates, can promote violent behavior. Individuals who use illicit drugs in particular, are more likely to commit crimes. 

  • Half of federal prisoners are diagnosed with substance abuse disorders. 
  • In a quarter of workplace violence incidents, the perpetrator was perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • In Los Angeles, 35 percent of methamphetamine users aged 18-25 years old were found to have committed violence while under the influence of the drug.  
  • In Atlanta, ecstasy users with higher levels of lifetime use exhibited higher rates of aggressive and violent behavior.

Substance Abuse Increases the Risk of Becoming a Victim of Violence

The risk of becoming a victim of violence also increases when a person consumes alcohol and/or uses drugs. Why is that? There are several reasons, when someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they:

  1. Have a harder time identifying social cues or risky people and places.
  2. Are unable to defend or remove themselves from risky situations.
  3. Are more likely identified as an easy target for predators.

Free Resources for Substance Abuse Treatment and Support Services: