Alcohol and Violence
There is obvious evidence of an association between alcohol consumption and violence, however the relationship between alcohol and violence or anti-social behaviour is highly complex.
It is simply not true to describe violence and crime as 'alcohol fuelled'. Alcohol does not fuel violence. If it did, every drinker would become angry or violent when sufficiently intoxicated.
The Australian Institue of Criminology has published a Summary Paper on alcohol and violence - Key Issues in Alcohol-related Violence. In it, the AIC summarised the relationship between alcohol and violence as this:
The relationship between alcohol and violence
Despite this strong body of evidence, the relationship between alcohol and violence, like many other complex social phenomena, is not a simple or straightforward one. Research shows that heavy drinking and intoxication are associated with physical aggression (Plant, Plant & Thornton 2002; Wells & Graham 2003). However, the majority of people who drink alcohol do not become offenders or victims of violent crime and consuming alcohol does not necessarily act as a precursor to violent behaviour (Plant, Plant & Thornton 2002)(DSICA emphasis).
Instead, research suggests that the association between alcohol and aggression is the result of a complex interaction of a number of variables, including:
• the pharmacological effects of alcohol on the cognitive, affective or behavioural functioning of the drinker which can lead to increased risk-taking, reduced anxiety regarding possible sanctions for their behaviour, heightened emotionality, impulsive behaviour, ‘liquid courage’, a distorted interpretation of events and an inability to resolve incidents verbally
• individual characteristics including age, gender, personality traits, predisposition to aggression, deviant attitudes and expectations of the drinker about the effects of alcohol and their behaviour while intoxicated
• effects of the drinking environment including situational factors such as crowding, permissiveness of violent behaviour, the management of licensed premises and the role and behaviour of venue staff (including managers and security)
• societal attitudes and values, including a culture of drinking to deliberately become intoxicated, using alcohol as an excuse for behaviour not normally condoned and for holding individuals less responsible for their actions (Graham et al 2006; 1998).
Therefore, the relationship between alcohol and violence is influenced by the interaction effects of alcohol along with personal, environmental and cultural factors (DSICA emphasis).
The prevention of violence and aggression must therefore be based upon a clear understanding of these interacting processes and risk factors, drawing upon the evidence base with respect to the most effective interventions to address these factors, and customising these strategies to suit the specific circumstances of local communities (Graham & Homel 2008).