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How Substance Abuse and Addiction Relate to Violence

Violence can have affect whether a person uses drugs or alcohol. At the same time, the opposite is also true: a person who uses drugs and alcohol may be more inclined to participation in violence. For this reason, there seems to be a relationship between addiction and violence. This article will explore this relationship, which might be useful for those who want to end any violent behavior or who want to understand their addiction.

It’s very common for someone who has witnessed or endured violence to eventually turn to drugs and alcohol. In fact, historically, narcotics and tobacco were freely given to soldiers as a way to help reduce the psychological effects related to witnessing violence and death. on the battlefield. In many cases, the violence they witnessed and endured themselves severely affected their psychological health. Today, this is not ethical treatment, but many veterans who are not in psychological treatment tend to turn to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope. In fact, research has found that alcohol addiction is the most common mental disorder among veterans. Because of this, the United States Veterans Administration (VA) has offered substance abuse classes as a way to provide support for its veterans. The VA is also known to provide personal individual therapy as a way to help prevent and treat substance and/or alcohol dependence.

Veterans are a good example of how some people might feel the need to turn to drugs and alcohol after they’ve experienced violence. For instance, events that might contribute to the need to use substances include:

  • Rape
  • Witnessing a crime
  • Witnessing the death or suicide of a close friend
  • Witnessing domestic violence (even if you witnessed it many years ago as a child)
  • Experiencing the violent effects of a natural disaster
  • Witnessing violence
  • Being the victim of chronic bullying
  • Experiencing physical or sexual abuse

These are all experiences of violence that are traumatic and can severely affect a person’s psychological well being. And when this happens, a person might easily turn to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with what they’ve experienced. Ideally, however, instead of using substances to cope with witnessing or enduring violence, a person should seek out mental health services.

Another way in which violence and addiction are related is that the use of alcohol and drugs can sometimes lead a person to become violent. Drugs and alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions and they might do something they might not otherwise do while sober. People under the influence of substances can become aggressive, angry, sad (and harm themselves), or depressed.

However, according to research there are certain drugs that tend to contribute to violent behavior while other drugs do not. For instance, marijuana, opiates, and psychoactive drugs, like LSD, tend to make a person feel euphoric, joyful, and relaxed. Yet, other substances such as alcohol and methamphetamine might cause a person to experience agitation, paranoia, frustration, anger, and other adverse feelings. These feelings can slowly add to the violent thoughts that a person might already have. Or as mentioned earlier, being under the influence might lower inhibition and give a person more freedom to do that they’ve been thinking about but might not do while sober.

Although research doesn’t seem to support a strong relationship between drug use and violent crimes, there are specific ways in which substance use and violence are related, as discussed in this article.

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