General Question

nebule's avatar

What is it about alcohol that makes people aggressive?

Asked by nebule (16149 points ) March 22nd, 2010

Is it something in the alcohol? Some people say different types of alcohol make them aggressive..which would suggest so…

Is it rather..more to do with the chemical changes in the brain? In which case..why does it affect some and not others? although I know we’re all different neurologically..sooooo…

given that sometimes aggression can be rational and sometimes irrational?

um…or something else?

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25 Answers

grumpyfish's avatar

It’s considered likely that the “different kinds of alcohol” thing is a myth—studies don’t seem to back it up.

Regardless, alcohol lowers inhibitions. That can mean an increase in aggression (which is why it only affects some people). I’m a quiet drunk. Except when I drink tequila.

slick44's avatar

I think alcohol brings out things in people that wouldnt normally come out, not necasarily always aggression. some people get silly or sad.just depends on the person i think.

fireside's avatar

A varying combination ego, fear, stupidity and lack of self control.

nebule's avatar

@fireside I take it you’re implying that emotions are controllable?
@grumpyfish thanks for that – do you have any references at all regarding the studies?
@slick44 the things that come out, that wouldn’t normally…do you mean that they are suppressed desires or that they are completely at odds with the person’s normal characteristic behaviour…or both perhaps?

slick44's avatar

Perhaps both.

Just_Justine's avatar

It is said that alcohol causes personality changes (big ones) in alcoholics. Alcoholics do not have the correct enzymes to break down or process alcohol like that of a none alcoholics. Perhaps it is because of this? Although no idea how it reacts chemically on various areas of the brain. It could have to do with absorption at the synapse being too rapid causing irritable brain.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I read that as ‘progressive’ at first and was going to say ‘because people have more progressive views than they care to let on for fear of being ridiculed but alcohol allows them the excuse to express them’ but that’s now what you were asking. Though I guess the reason is pretty much the same – it’s not even about the chemical interaction but about the fact that people let go or think they should when drinking.

The_Idler's avatar

I think many people also drink alcohol to have an excuse to become aggressive.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t think so. I think that some people are naturally sour and mean and that alcohol strips off their social veneer to make them appear display of what they were without those inhibitions. Others, who might often put on a ‘shell’ to protect themselves, often become over-emotional and maudlin when drunk.

Sophief's avatar

I think they are possibly naturally aggressive people already, the drink just helps them, or should I say, gives them the excuse.

fireside's avatar

@lynneblundell – I think that emotions are natural, but the actions that come out of those emotions can be modified if the person is willing. Aggression is not an emotion, it is a behavior.

noyesa's avatar

I’m the most anti-violent person I know, I really hate it. A lot. And I become even less aggressive when I get drunk.

I don’t buy the argument that certain kinds of alcohol (scotch seems to be a common one) make people more violent. I think violent people are more likely to be violent once their fear of the repercussions are lifted by the alcohol.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Alcohol brings out something that already exists by lowering inhibitions. So if a guy is a dick when he’s drunk it means he’s a dick.

ETpro's avatar

Alcohol doesn’t make people aggressive any more than it makes them jocular. It dulls brain function in general, but the first area it begins to shut down is the portion responsible for our inhibitions. Call it the conscience center—the part of the brain that ordinarily says, when someone cuts you off in traffic or rushes to slap their stuff in front of you at the checkout line, “Yeah, he’s an asshole, but it isn’t worth a fight, I might get hurt or killed or arrested.”

That same part of the brain prevents you from laughing like a hyena at some modestly funny joke, because you know you would look like a maniac to those who didn’t hear to witticism.

When booze shuts down the inhibition center but the parts of the brain that get offended at slights perceived or amused at humor expressed are still working, you can shift from laughing hysterically to raw aggression in a heartbeat because the part of your brain that tells you to take it easy isn’t online any longer. It’s been temporarily anesthetized.

partyparty's avatar

Alcohol lowers a persons inhbitions… although that facet of their behaviour already existed when sober.

JeffVader's avatar

I’ve never understood that…. although my mums an angry drunk. I’ve always been the total opposite. I get crazy-happy & excitable. I also become a terrible flirt, & get really, really naive.

ninjacolin's avatar

i agree with @Captain_Fantasy. the way you react while drunk has to do more with the individual’s habitual thought processes as affected by the loss of inhibition.

also, has to do with an individual’s memories of experiences with a certain drink.

faye's avatar

And maybe it’s that whiskey drinkers are generally somewhat aggressive before the booze. It has been my experience that whiskey drinkers get mean.

Coloma's avatar

Nothing worse than an emotionally sloppy drunk!
So unattractive. Yuck!

ETpro's avatar

I’m usually a happy drunk. I love to talk with friends and laugh at silly jokes. I know there are a lot like me, or most of late-night comedy would be very different than it is today. But when I am sufficiently drunk, I have to really work on anger control if anybody deliberately riles me. I do it, and generally succeed using other parts of my brain to pinch hit for the inhibition center that I know is temporarily offline. But it took practice to learn how to do that.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Alcohol eases inhibitions of what you’re already capable of, leading to a loss of self control over the scariest or ugliest bits. We work to try in different ways to mature past, age past or train past hurt, anger, bitterness, aggression, paranoia, etc so those things are going to seep to the surface bit by bit when people drink and circumstances can definitely act as triggers. I’ve experienced it first hand in myself and other people to the point I have to be careful whose company I’m in if I drink to excess.

Aster's avatar

Alcohol has never made me aggressive but I’ve heard that those who do become so are ones who have been holding back expressing their anger over various matters.

CountryStrong1959's avatar

I am a 52 yr old female that after a 28 year marriage divorced and have been for 8 years. I am a very easy going person and very seldom in my life have went off on anyone. I met and have been involved with the best man that I have ever been with for the past nine months. He works construction and is 700 miles from home and I see him for one weekend a month and we are hoping that is going to change soon. I had been on wellbutrin 150 XL for 6–7 years but stopped taking it a year ago. I lost a brother to endstage pancreatic cancer in January. He died less than a month after finding out he had it. I have struggled with his death and when I had an annual check up in June and discussed this with my GP he put me back on Wellbutrin. I told him I didn’t feel like it was doing anything for me and that is why I stopped taking it so he increased it to 300 XL. I am doing things that are totally out of character for me when I am drinking now. I can have a few drinks and I am very ugly and aggressive. I have text all kinds of things to my boyfriend and I know I’ve done it when I get up the next day but what I do remember is bad enough. Could the wellbutrin increase mixed with the alcohol be doing this?? I mean some of the things that I text about is an irritation but nothing major but when I am drinking its like its a major issue that I explode about. I’m so embarrassed about this. My boyfriend will be through with this job in a few weeks and will be coming home and he is probably going to pack up and move out and I can’t blame him. Does anyone know about the combination of alcohol and high doses of wellbutrin??

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