Pomona Community CC

The Link Between Substance Abuse And Violence

There are so many different ways to look at the connection between drugs and alcohol and the crimes in which they are involved. It is possible to consider that had there been no drugs or alcohol there would have been no crime. Had the perpetrators not been intoxicated (to whatever level) they would not have committed the crime.

On the other hand, like an ageing rock star about to go on stage, the perpetrators knew all along they planned to commit the crime and drugs or alcohol gave them the chutzpah to do it – Dutch courage effectively.


The link is well documented

The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment reported that 75% of people beginning treatment for drug addiction acknowledge their acts of violence.

The Department of Justice published figures are somewhat outdated but from their last report at least a quarter of all crimes of violence which end in prosecution unless the crime is rape in which case the number goes up to 30%.

Does under the influence equal violent behavior?

This is not as simple a question as it appears. Drugs and alcohol reduce inhibitions and can cause a person to do things that they normally would not do. But there are also plenty of occasions where people under the influence did not commit violent acts.

The problem appears to be that the triggers work with more effectively with certain people. While sometimes the effects can be relatively mild, there is always the concern things can escalate.


The link especially prevalent in sex crimes and domestic abuse

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots between drugs which heighten arousal and violent sex crimes. Methamphetamines and cocaine are known to stimulate sexual feelings and under the influence, without the benefit of any inhibitors, people are more likely to act on the impulse.

Alcohol continues to have a huge effect in the sex crimes. In the sex crimes involving women of college age, 50% of the crimes involved alcohol.

Domestic violence

The link between substance abuse and domestic violence is most worrying for its tendency to escalate.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine identified in as many as 60% of incidents, substances either were the cause or the escalation factor.


While this often starts with a spouse who is a mean drunk and says nasty things, it can become the spouse who does nasty things is things worsen.

The vicious circle

Being a victim of violence is a precursor of addiction because of the way in which the brain responds to the trauma. Emotional pain can be overwhelming and the victim of the crime, looking for some relief may turn themselves to alcohol or drugs.

The link is proven, and the effects on families and society are documented. But the sands are always shifting. It is hard to see how we can prevent this type of violence or break the link because we are equally unable to prevent addiction and substance abuse.