One-third of all acts of violence are perpetrated under the influence of alcohol. They give rise not only to personal suffering, but also to socio-economic costs. What are the causes of alcohol-related aggression? The authors Anne Beck and Andreas Heinz have investigated this question and present their findings in this edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2013; 110 (42): 711).
They outline the social, psychological, and neurobiological factors that contribute to the link between alcohol consumption and increased aggression. Reduced cognitive control resulting from heavy alcohol consumption narrows perception and so can lead to an increased proneness to violent behavior in certain situations. According to current research, additional factors include personal expectations of the effect of alcohol and previous violent confrontations. In men in particular, the influence of alcohol strengthens the conviction that violence and aggression are acceptable forms of social interaction. However, environmental conditions in early childhood, such as social discrimination, are further risk factors.
Therapeutic approaches have been developed to combat this alcohol-induced aggression. These are specific therapies that aim to increase cognitive and emotional control.