Home Education 100 Questions & Answers About Alcoholism
What is the link between alcoholism and violence?
The association between drinking and crime was first made in London during the 18th century during an era known as "the gin craze," although overcrowding and unemployment may have played a larger role than cheap gin. Whether or not it was drinking or poverty and overcrowding, the era engendered the notion that alcoholism was the cause of the poor becoming violent. In the past century, research has consistently linked alcohol intoxication and violence. This has come from both epidemiological as well as experimental studies. For example, a positive correlation exists between the quantity of alcohol consumed and the frequency of a wide variety of violent acts, including sexual assault, child abuse, and homicide. This is particularly true for people with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or what is better known as sociopathy. As a group, antisocial individuals have higher rates of alcohol dependence and more alcohol-related problems than the general population, but alcoholism makes constitutionally aggressive individuals more aggressive whether or not they are antisocial. Violent offenders in state prisons frequently report having used alcohol before their offense. Approximately 50% of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, the victim, or both. Alcohol is a factor in 60% to 70% of homicides, 40% of suicides, and 38% of fatal motor vehicle accidents.
Likewise, in laboratory studies, people with ASPD show greater increases in aggressive behavior after consuming alcohol than people without ASPD. The association between ASPD and alcohol-related aggression may result from biological factors, such as ASPD- related impairments in the functions of certain brain chemicals (e.g., serotonin) or in the activities of higher reasoning, or the executive brain regions. Alternatively, the association between ASPD and alcohol-related aggression may stem from some undetermined factor(s) that increases the risk for aggression in general.
Not all people exhibit increased aggression under the influence of alcohol. There is an enormous variation in the way people behave when they drink. In some Scandinavian and Anglo-American societies, alcohol is associated with violent and antisocial behavior, whereas in Mediterranean and some Asian societies, drinking behavior is largely nonviolent. This variation is clearly related to different individuals, as well as cultural beliefs about the expectations of how alcohol intoxication affects behavior. In other words, alcohol consumption promotes aggressive behavior in individuals or societies where it is expected to and the society accepts it as a consequence. This has been borne out by research that studied the effects of people who believed they had drunk alcohol and then began to act more aggressively, regardless of whether they actually consumed the alcohol. Societal expectations that alcohol promotes male aggression against both other males and toward females, combined with the widespread perception that intoxicated women are sexually receptive, probably account for the association between drinking and sexual assault.
Is there a gateway drug that can lead to alcoholism?
The concept of a gateway drug has always been controversial. For many years, it was identified as marijuana. To a large extent, this has been debunked; however, children are continuing to experiment with drugs of all types, and the drug that is most available and easily accessible becomes the drug that is first used. For those children who are at risk for developing alcoholism, their first drug does not seem to matter so much as the fact that they use it. Children 12 to 17 years old who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine; children who drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine, and those who smoke are 19 times more likely to abuse other drugs. Additionally, these numbers increase the younger the child is at first use. Because alcohol is often found in peoples' homes, it often becomes the first drug that children use. Because of its accessibility, the number one problem for children remains alcohol abuse. Lately children have been using inhalants and over-the-counter medications to get high because those are easier to obtain. Finally, never underestimate the use of tobacco. This is truly a gateway drug that leads to other drug and alcohol use. For one reason, it is generally not associated with intoxication or behavioral impairment, and thus, parents are sometimes more accepting of its use. For another reason, children are much more willing to report tobacco use then they are other drug use because it is more socially acceptable. Tobacco is perhaps the most addictive substance known. It has unique properties through dose titration of being both a stimulant and an antianxiety agent. It is therefore a drug for all occasions, but tobacco's neurochemical effects are similar to other drugs in boosting dopamine in the brain, which stimulates the reward system.
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