Alcohol abuse may contribute to a variety of serious crimes, including assault, child abuse, domestic violence, homicide and robbery.
Alcohol-related crime and violence affect individuals, families, and communities all across the country.
Excessive alcohol use, or binge drinking, heavy drinking and underage consumption, has been linked to a heightened risk of violent death and violence between people, including assault, child abuse, domestic violence, homicide, and rape. Alcohol use may also contribute to robbery and other forms of sexual violence.
Alcohol causes disinhibition, a state that can cause people to act impulsively and in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. This sense of disinhibition can make it more difficult for a person to restrain themselves or ignore certain thoughts, such as those that may trigger acts of violent crime.
Under the influence, some people become angry or aggressive, states that can also act as triggers for violence. One study reported that roughly 37 percent of inmates who were convicted of a violent crime claimed they had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crime.
Even after the crime is over, the effects can be far-reaching, both for the individual and the victim. In addition to jail time and other severe penalties for crime, a person may lose their job, lose child custody, experience divorce or have their education severely disrupted. Their family may face financial or housing instability or even begin to drink as they struggle to manage the new pressures within their life. Many victims of violent crimes may themselves develop a substance use disorder down the road as they struggle to cope with the trauma they experienced.
Without comprehensive help, any of these individuals may use alcohol as a way of numbing the pain from these life-changing crimes. But instead of providing a solution, alcohol can aggravate the trauma, cause or worsen mental health problems and exacerbate any family or social problems. The best treatment programs can help a person heal and stabilize after addiction and the painful life circumstances that brought them there.
What follows are some of the most serious forms of crime that alcohol use may contribute to:
Alcohol can cause mood swings and hostile and erratic behavior in some individuals. The more heavily a person drinks, the more pronounced these states can become.
In certain cases, alcohol can fuel aggravated assault, or when a person attacks another person with the goal of creating serious bodily harm or injury. This may happen with or without a weapon, and in certain cases, it may take place in a bar or other establishment where alcohol is sold. A person could face jail time and a criminal record after these charges.
Child Abuse And Neglect
Children of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol have a greater risk of experiencing child abuse and neglect, than do those who live with parents who don’t abuse these substances. Examples of abuse include physical, sexual and emotional.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) at the time of parental child abuse, 35 percent of offenders had used drugs or alcohol. Neighborhoods that have high numbers of alcohol outlets (bars or stores that sell alcohol) are reported to have more issues with child maltreatment.
Child abuse and maltreatment can lead to social problems, issues at school, serious physical and mental health problems (including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders) and foster care. Even more, up to two-thirds of people receiving treatment for drug and alcohol problems experienced some form of child maltreatment, according to researchers.
Alcohol is the most heavily abused drug as reported by homicide offenders. Homicide includes both murder and manslaughter. The link between alcohol and violence is complex, but experts believe that as alcohol impairs a person’s judgment and impulse control, aggressive and hostile behaviors more easily form.
Johns Hopkins cites that 48 percent of homicide offenders consumed alcohol directly before the murder, while 37 percent were intoxicated during it. Further, from 2006 to 2010, the CDC found that approximately 7,756 homicides annually were linked to excessive alcohol use.
Research shows that a significant number of homicide victims consume alcohol. One scientific paper that analyzed data from 17 states found that out of all homicide victims, nearly 40 percent had a positive blood alcohol content (BAC) level.
Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence (also referred to as domestic violence) occurs at the hand of a current or past intimate partner and includes psychological, physical and sexual violence. It can include threatening to harm a person in one of these ways, forcing a person to do something against their will and stalking.
WHO reports that perpetrators drank alcohol in an estimated 55 percent of intimate partner violence in the United States. Experts believe that alcohol impacts intimate partner violence in the following ways:
- Alcohol impairs a person’s ability to think clearly, reduces self-control and makes it more difficult for a person to resolve a conflict in a non-violent way.
- Chronic or heavy drinking can aggravate childcare issues, financial struggles, infidelity and other problems in the family that can become major sources of stress.
- The perception that alcohol is a source of aggression may act as an excuse for violent behavior in some individuals.
Other research found that women who experienced recent acts of intimate partner violence were at a greater risk for developing severe patterns of problem drinking than non-abused women. It’s also been shown that children who observe their parents acting out in violence or making threats of violence have a higher risk of engaging in harmful drinking down the road.
As alcohol clouds, a person’s mind, their ability to reason and make sounds judgments can become seriously compromised. Alcohol can also inflate a person’s perception of their abilities and create a false sense of security. This can lead some people to make rash decisions
Alcohol can be extremely addictive, and once a person is addicted, the compulsion to find and use alcohol can lead them to act in uncharacteristic ways. This may entail stealing alcohol or other items that can be sold to pay for more alcohol.
In certain cases, a person may feel desperate because they’ve allowed their drinking to destroy other areas of their life. Some people may fall behind on mortgage payments or other bills and even lose their job due to alcohol’s devastating effects. Stealing may become a way that people try to remedy this situation. But instead of improving things, a person could find themselves in jail with a criminal record, estranged from their family and in even direr financial straits.
Time and again, alcohol has been the drug most frequently found to contribute to sexual assault. Sometimes, date-rape drugs or “roofies” are mixed into alcohol, creating an even more dangerous combination.
Along with reducing judgment and inhibition, alcohol can also make it difficult for a person to interpret another person’s social cues or sexual interest, leading to unwanted and aggressive sexual advances. Sexual violence includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
Alcohol’s effects can also make it harder to physically or mentally resist an assault or sexual advances. Further, research on sexual assault victims has shown that women took risks while intoxicated they normally wouldn’t.
Sexual assault is a grave concern on college campuses. Evidence suggests that 50 percent or more of sexual assaults in the college population happen when the perpetrator, victim or both were drinking alcohol. Additionally, other resources have found that:
- Roughly 72 percent of college rapes happened to victims who were too intoxicated to consent.
- 88 percent of men who committed rape at college by force used alcohol or drugs to commit the offense.
- On days when women drink four or more alcoholic beverages, sexual assaults are 19 times more likely to happen.
The Washington Post reported on a poll that focused on campus sexual assault, writing that “women who say they sometimes or often drink more than they should are twice as likely to be victims of completed, attempted or suspected sexual assaults as those who rarely or never drink.” Men can also be the victims of sexual assault, in college or at any other point in their life.
In addition to violent crime, alcohol is frequently tied to alcohol-related driving offenses, such as drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI), a situation that could cause a traffic fatality.
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Getting Help For A Drinking Problem
For many people struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, comprehensive treatment is one of the best ways to prevent further harm and instability within their life.
In certain cases, as part of sentencing for their criminal act, a person may need court-mandated or court-ordered drug or alcohol addiction treatment. Certain facilities offer services that may fulfill these requirements.
In any form of treatment, results are often far better when treatment is individualized in approach. These customized services provide treatments and therapies that address each person’s unique needs. This person-centric care can help a person to better manage their emotions, relate to people more effectively and rebuild important areas of their life.
Recovery from addiction takes time, and for many people, inpatient drug rehab facilities provide a better opportunity to heal and learn sober living skills than does outpatient treatment.
Examples of treatments and therapies that may help a person regain sobriety and build a more balanced life include:
- Anger-management classes
- Behavioral therapies
- Dual diagnosis care for mental health problems
- Family therapy and support
- Individual and group therapy sessions
- Mindfulness and stress reduction practices
For victims of crime who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder, trauma-informed care or dual diagnosis treatment may be beneficial. These compassionate, targeted services can address the underlying issues (such as mental health disorders) and past traumatic experiences that may have prompted alcohol or drug abuse. Certain individuals may feel more comfortable and safer in a specialized addiction treatment program that offers men’s- or women’s only treatment services.
Contact Addiction Campuses for more information on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Alcohol and Public Health: Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI)
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — Alcohol and Violence
- National Institute of Justice — Alcohol Use Increases the Risk of Sexual Assault
- Prevention Research Center — How Alcohol Outlets Affect Neighborhood Violence
- Urban Institute — Addressing Violence and Disorder around Alcohol Outlets
- US National Library of Medicine — Child Maltreatment and Adult Substance Abuse: The Role of Memory, Intimate Partner Violence and Patterns of Alcohol Abuse and Dependence Criteria Among Women: A Latent Class Analysis
- University at Buffalo — RIA Reaching Others: Alcohol and Sexual Assault
- World Health Organization — Child maltreatment and alcohol, Intimate partner violence and alcohol