• Some people become more aggressive or violent when they drink alcohol; they pick fights with others, shout, and say inappropriate things.
  • The reason certain individuals display this aggressive behavior after alcohol consumption is that alcohol lowers inhibitions and relaxes.
  • When we drink excessively, these inhibitions decrease and our tendencies to act aggressively or violently increase—especially if we have been repressing our emotions.
  • Fortunately, if this is a problem for you, you can learn to manage your aggressive or violent urges.
  • First, you must learn to accept, understand, and manage your emotions properly; additionally, you might need to reevaluate your drinking habits and make some changes.

Do you know someone who becomes increasingly aggressive when they drink? I do. A friend from college was always a loose cannon at the bars. The night would start out tame enough—we’d camp out at a table, typically in the corner, and chat over a couple drinks. But after John got a few beers down, he’d cause a scene: he would pick a fight with a random guy at another table; shout aggressively at people walking by; and even speak inappropriately to us, his friends. The next day, John always apologized. He would explain that he didn’t know why he was like this. He said that he wished he could keep his cool and just have a good time like everybody else.

So, why was John always aggressive after drinking? More generally, why are certain people more violent when they drink? David Livingston, a psychotherapist at Domus Retreat—a licensed recovery center providing a range of services for people recovering from alcohol or opioid dependence following medical detoxification—helps us understand the link between alcohol and aggression, as well as how we can manage our aggressive behavior.

Aggression After Alcohol: Course and Development

If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of wine or a beer, you might think that a drink or two can take the edge off. Well, sometimes this effect proves too appealing and certain people go overboard—they drink too much and let it all out. Livingston explains with a few highlights:

  • For many people, moderate alcohol use lowers inhibitions and allows them to feel more relaxed—it helps people let go and play. But, for some people, feeling more relaxed and less inhibited can also lead to problems with regulating more primitive impulses.
  • Because alcohol increases stimulation and also lowers inhibitions, there is a significant correlation between alcohol use and increases in aggression and violence.
  • It should be noted that it’s excessive alcohol use—not having one beer or one glass of wine—that tends to lead to increased aggression. So, prior to the physiological effects of excessive amounts of alcohol, there has already been a decision or latent impulse to drink excessively. Often, the first aggressive act is the decision to drink alcohol excessively.
  • When there is an excessive amount of alcohol consumed, which chemically lowers our repression barrier, there is an uprising of what was previously repressed or rendered to the background. Now, it can all come up. And if the right or wrong situation arises, it can be real trouble.

Manage Violent Urges and Drink Responsibly

If you get aggressive when you drink alcohol, it’s important that you learn how to manage your aggression. This should involve confronting and managing your feelings properly and might also involve reevaluating your drinking habits; as Livingston mentioned above, choosing to drink ample amounts of alcohol is often the first act of aggression.

“The ability to manage our aggression is significantly predicated on how well we can moderate feelings and impulses,” he explains. “To do this, we must be able to have thoughts and feelings in the foreground and also be able to move them to the background. Excess alcohol interrupts this balance, leading to greater difficulty with effectively regulating internal and external information.”