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The Dark Side of Substance Abuse: How Drugs and Alcohol Can Trigger Violence

At least 37 million Americans age 12 and older used illegal drugs in 2020, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.

Additionally, statistics show that 300,000 victims get violently assaulted each year by attackers under the influence of alcohol.

With such numbers, you may be asking how alcohol and drugs trigger people to commit violence. What can you do to address such violence caused by substance abuse? Can an attorney help with substance abuse cases?

This article explains how drugs and alcohol can cause people to engage in violent acts and discusses how you can help resolve violence involving substance abuse.

This article also discusses how an attorney can help when you find yourself in a substance abuse case.

Substance abuse can cause or worsen problems with health, family, school, work, finances, and even legal problems. Drug and alcohol abuse has impacted at least 28.3 million people, according to statistics gathered by Michael & Associates.

Understanding how substance abuse can result in and trigger violence can help you take steps to prevent or minimize these events from happening and avoid getting into legal problems later.

Read on to learn how drugs and alcohol trigger violence and what you can do to address this issue.

How Do Drugs and Alcohol Lead to Violence?

Drug addiction or substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease affecting a person’s behavior, making them unable to control their use of legal or illegal medicines or drugs.

Substances like alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana also fall under this category. Addiction to these substances can make you continue using the drugs despite their potential harm.

The relationship between substance use and violence can be complex. Numerous factors like the violent experiences of the victim and perpetrator, social determinants like sex, poverty, and ethnicity, and comorbidities of other disorders can influence this link.

Studies show that past violence victimization may cause the development of drug use disorders. In turn, these disorders can later lead to the perpetration of violence.

In other words, substance use can lead to violence and vice versa.

Furthermore, the drugs’ psychological and physical effects can cause agitation, aggression, and cognitive impairment, potentially increasing the risk of violence.

This effect suggests that individuals with drug use disorders can turn to violence to finance and sustain drug use. Additionally, disagreements within illegal drug markets may lead to violence.

Because of the potential for substance abuse to lead to violence, individuals with such addiction may likely commit violence-related crimes. Contact an attorney for legal assistance if someone accuses you or someone you know of committing such crimes.

When Is Enough Really Enough?

Drug addiction often begins with experimenting with recreational drugs in social gatherings. When drug use becomes more frequent, some people taking the drug may experience addiction.

Others, especially those taking opioids, can become addicted after taking prescribed medicines or receiving them from others with such prescriptions.

How fast a person becomes addicted varies by drug. For example, opioid painkillers have a higher risk for addiction and can make a person addicted more quickly than other drugs.

As the person continues taking the drug over time, they may require larger doses to experience that “high” feeling.

So if you need to take the drug to feel good, remember that as you increase the drug use, getting through your day may become increasingly difficult without taking that drug.

What to Do to Address Violence Due to Substance Abuse

If you believe you have SUD or your dependence on drugs triggers you to engage in violent behavior, consult a doctor or therapist for diagnosis.

Treatment programs for SUD and violent behaviors include inpatient rehabilitation, detoxification, and outpatient treatment. Some facilities also provide support services to help individuals manage aggressive tendencies.

SUD treatment programs usually offer individual or group therapies and varying care levels like outpatient, inpatient, and residential.

Detoxification or withdrawal therapy aims to help you stop taking addictive substances as soon and safely as possible.

Withdrawal can produce numerous symptoms like muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Detoxification may help manage substance abuse by gradually reducing the drug’s dose or temporarily substituting the drug with other substances.

If you know someone who may need support for their treatment needs, coordinate with agencies or organizations dealing with substance abuse and violence to help with this goal. Some of the programs and services you can consider are the following:

  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health counseling
  • Aggression support groups
  • Anger management sessions
  • Parenting training
  • Legal help

For cases associated with violence, part of the treatment or aftercare plan includes survivor support groups for victims and batterers’ intervention programs for perpetrators.

Aside from utilizing treatment and therapy, you can help address violence due to substance abuse through a lawyer, especially if you or someone you know gets arrested for a violent crime related to substance abuse.

In such cases, an experienced lawyer specializing in criminal defense for substance abuse or violence can help with your situation. Working with a lawyer can help you navigate the legal process smoothly and strengthen your defense in court.

Even if you get convicted for crimes related to substance abuse, having a lawyer can help lower your sentence and ensure that your rights remain respected.


  1. Drug Abuse Statistics
  1. How Drugs & Alcohol Can Fuel Violent Behaviors
  1. Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder): Symptoms & Causes
  1. Drug Use Disorders and Violence: Associations With Individual Drug Categories
  1. Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder): Diagnosis & Treatment
  1. Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Timelines & Treatment