The phenomenon of the “mean drunk” is quite common, but science has now shown exactly why people are more likely to be aggressive or violent when they are drinking. Pretty much everyone who has seen someone drunk knows that intoxication decreases a person’s inhibitions, and a new scientific study used imaging of the brain to show that inhibition does decrease when alcohol is consumed, paving the way for aggressive impulses to become stronger and more pronounced.
Does Alcohol Make People Mean?
The study, which looked at MRI scans of 50 healthy men, showed that their brains had decreased activity in the parts of the brain that controlled inhibition and increased activity in the parts that controlled aggression when they consumed two vodka drinks and were given an aggressive game to play during the MRI.
The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the area that controls both aggression and inhibition, and the study showed definitively that drinking even moderately causes changes in the way people (or at least men) respond to aggression compared to those who are not drinking.
The study did not show whether a person without strong aggressive tendencies would have them when drinking. There may be some people who can fight their aggressive tendencies more strongly in social situations than they would with a game, where aggression can seem more socially acceptable than, for instance, getting into a fight with a friend or becoming verbally abusive to a significant other.
The exact interaction between the inhibition and aggression centers of the brain may not be clear yet, but it is plain to see that drinking will at least make an already aggressive person more likely to act on those tendencies and may even cause a person who does not have strong aggressive tendencies to act aggressively when drinking.
It is very telling that about half of all violent crimes also involve alcohol intoxication, and these numbers help to confirm brain research that shows the connection between increased aggression, decreased inhibition, and alcohol abuse.
A Motivation to Get Sober
Overly aggressive behavior is but one negative consequence of alcohol abuse and addiction. For some, seeing the consequences of their aggressive behavior can be a motivation to get the help they need and avoid doing things they will later regret or that may even have criminal penalties.
The violence that is associated with drinking can lead to loss of relationships, including spouses and significant others, children, and friendships. Once the damage is done, it is often impossible to repair it, especially without a commitment to sober living. Recovery Village is a Colorado alcohol rehab that can help you get sober so that relationships can be repaired before it is too late. Contact us to learn about our programs and how we can help those struggling with alcohol abuse and its negative effects to overcome their addictions.