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Alcohol: A Cause Of Violence?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2730 words Published: 3rd May 2017

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Alcohol is undeniably one of the most widely and safely used intoxicants in the world, however, it is also dangerous, both from a psychological and physiological view. Alcohol is currently responsible for more deaths and personal destruction than any other known substance of abuse, alcohol is legal, easily obtained, and supported by a multi-billion dollar worldwide industry. In this essay I will be critically assessing whether there is a relationship with alcohol and violence, if people under the influence of alcohol causes people to be more violent and why. Intoxication may lead to poor judgements, do they actually know the severity of their actions, and to what extent they are actually willing to go to when they are under the influence of alcohol and does drugs have an effect? This essay will explain the association between alcohol consumption, violence, and aggression and the role of the brain in regulating these behaviours. In July 2005, Oli Usher reported in The Guardian newspaper does Alcohol affect a person, it depends on that person. It has been shown that while people are under the influence of alcohol it makes people more aggressive and violent towards others. The Home Office statistics published in 2005 expected a sharp rise in alcohol related violent crime. Also previous government figures show almost a quarter of assaults taking place in or near pubs and bars, and around half of violent crimes in 2011 were thought to be committed while under the influence of alcohol.

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Violence may be defined as behaviour that purposely inflicts, or attempts to inflict any physical harm. There are many scientists that have recognized a two way association between alcohol consumption and violence or any aggressiveness towards others. In many cases, the abuse of alcohol and a tendency to violence may stem from a common cause, this may be a temperamental trait, such as a risk seeking personality, or a social environment e.g. criminal peers or lack of parental supervision. Sometimes when people drink it can put them at greater risk of losing their temper, some experts believe the reason some people become confrontational when drunk is due to the way alcohol affects the brain. According to Professor McMurran (2010), a psychologist at University of Nottingham who has researched the relationship between alcohol and aggression says alcohol reduces our ability to think straight, it narrows our focus of attention and gives us tunnel vision. Alcohol also affects the way we process information, when we have been drinking we are more likely to misjudge other people’s behaviour and misread social cues, this can then lead to confrontations with others who are acting aggressively. According to a professor of psychology, most people aren’t violent when drunk but significant minorities are and that drunken violence is down to a range of neurological explanations and it’s all down to the complex chemistry of the brain. Brain cells communicate with each other using electrical impulses, but these transmissions are regulated by a number of neurotransmitters. Each of these binds to a specific receptor in the brain cell, and it is the behaviour of these receptors that in some drinkers can be modified by alcohol, although scientists have not yet discovered which part of the receptor is linked with violence.

Alcohol is often linked with violence and anti-social behaviour amongst many people, but does alcohol make you more aggressive? Are there other factors that influence violence like drugs? There is considerable support for the concept that alcohol and drug use is related to violence in general. The key to the argument that alcohol causes violent behaviour is the proposition that alcohol acts as a dishibitator to release violent tendencies (McAndrew and Egderton, 1969). Drugs have a major influence on a person’s cognitive functioning as well as alcohol because drugs substances affect the way people communicate and the way they act. According to Hammersley (2008), said that the effects of drugs on violence are more subtle and situational, meaning it solely depends on where you are and who your peers are at that time, which may cause it to have an effect on your violent side. For instance, the drug cocaine, a common but particularly dangerous partnership when it is mixed with alcohol, these substances interact to produce a toxic substance in your liver. It can increase the depressive effects of alcohol, making a reaction to the cocaine stronger, and people are more likely to be aggressive with cocaethylene in your system. Even in the case of amphetamines, which have the most direct psychopharmological relationship to violence, the effect depends on dosage and pre use personality (Goldstein, 1985).

There is also a factor where serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain, is thought to function as a behavioral inhibitor, meaning decreased serotonin activity is associated with increased impulsivity and aggressiveness. Although the data is questionable, the alcohol violence link may be facilitated by chemical messengers in addition to serotonin. There is also considerable overlap among nerve cell pathways in the brain that regulate aspects of aggression, sexual behaviour, and alcohol consumption. High testosterone concentrations in criminals have been associated with violence, suspiciousness, and hostility. Violence occurs largely among adolescent and young adult males, who tend to have high levels of testosterone compared with the general population. There has been a study by Roizen where it was summarized the percentages of violent offenders who were drinking at the time of an offence. It was shown that up to 86% were homicide offenders, 37% of assault offenders, 60% sexual assault offenders and 13 % were child abusers (Roizen, 1997). In a community based study, Pernanen found that 42% of crimes that were reported to the police involved alcohol (Pernanen, 1991).

When coming to avoid violent situations, the majority of people who drink are never violent and even those who do become aggressive won’t do so all the time. Binge drinking increases the likelihood of both becoming aggressive and of being on the receiving end of someone else’s temper. Around 23,000 alcohol related incidents such as street fights, bar brawls and drunk and disorderly conduct take place in the UK every week. More than half of all violent crime is committed by offenders who are drunk and more than a third happens in and around pubs and clubs. Previous studies, on the impact alcohol and violence have had to rely on data collected from many police reports, which dramatically under report crimes. The data comes from the National Crime Victimization Surveys, where criminal violence is measured in terms of physical assault, rape and sexual assault, and robbery, as well as alcohol or drug involved assault, rape and sexual assault, and robbery. They identify only crimes in which the victim observed that the offender was under the influence of a mind altering substance. There are drawbacks to these measures, which were that the victim’s consumption is not reported and the offender’s actual consumption is not confirmed and that may lead be reported inaccurately.

Violence is of particular interest because of the mental and physical harm it inflicts on others. When the victim is the offender’s significant other, alcohol is a factor as much as 75 percent of the time. Understanding the nature of their relationship is important from a policy perspective, if alcohol consumption does lead to violent behaviours, then it may be possible to reduce violence through changes in policies that affect the demand for alcohol. Since the early 1980s, there has been an impact of the price of alcoholic beverages on alcohol consumption. There has been research about the role of alcohol prices on negative outcomes, including motor vehicle crashes, workplace accidents and crime. In general, research has been concluded that increases in the prices of alcoholic beverages do lead to reductions in drinking, and therefore in the adverse consequences of alcohol use and abuse. There have been study findings on increasing tax on beer decreases the probability of assault, but it has no effect on robbery and rapes and sexual assaults (Markowitz, 2001). A single percent increase in the beer tax decreases the probability of assault by 0.45 percent. For cases in which the offender was observed to be under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or both, the results are similar to those for all types of victimization, therefore higher beer taxes decrease the probability of assaults. Another study finding on crimes worldwide, the data came from International Victimization Surveys, which include large samples of respondents from 16 countries. The respondents were asked whether they had been victims of robbery, assault, or sexual assault. The results indicate that both higher prices for alcoholic beverages and higher taxes on alcohol lead to lower occurrences of all three types of violent crime. For example, a 1 percent increase in the tax on alcohol leads to a 0.19 percent decrease in the probability of robbery, a 0.25 percent decrease in the probability of assault, and a 0.16 percent decrease in the probability of sexual assault. Regulatory variables relating to alcohol may have negative effects on crime as well. Lowering legal blood alcohol levels, imposing bans on advertising, and raising minimum legal drinking ages reduce the probability of robbery.

There are also cultural differences which have an effect on criminal violence of different beverage types and private and public drinking, in Sweden during the period 1956 to 1994, police reported many assaults and according to the findings, there is a statistically significant relationship between the assault rate and a combined measure of on premise sales of beer and spirits. The estimated relationship corresponds to a fraction of an estimated 40%. The homicide rate is significantly associated with retail sales of spirits, the fraction is estimated at around 50%. Cities with a high rate of alcohol availability and above average rates of poverty had significantly higher homicide rates (Parker, 1995). Alcohol availability still had a direct relationship with rates of homicide. According to Collins, paradox why does most alcohol consumption not lead to violence. The vast majority of drunken experiences do not lead to violence. Collins (2009) estimates the proportion of drunken episodes that lead to violence are 1 to 7%.

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Research has shown that genetic factors play a strong role in whether a person becomes an alcoholic, accounting for 40% to 60% of the risk. The genetic risk of alcohol dependence increases with the number of alcoholic relatives and the closeness of the genetic relationship. However, most children of alcoholics do not become alcoholics themselves, and some children from families where alcohol is not a problem develop alcohol dependence when they get older. Alcohol dependence is seen in twins from alcoholic parents, even when they are raised in environments where there is little or no drinking. Genetics is too shallow an answer (Miczek 2007), also genes don’t cause behaviour, they do cause behaviour if they are triggered by a specific experience. There are many childhood experiences, for example, that can have a huge effect in defining which genes actually manifest them later in life. Studies have found results of higher tolerance for alcohol among daughters of alcoholics. One study examined the drinking patterns of 38 daughters of alcoholics, compared with 75 family history positive men from the same families and 68 men with no family history of alcohol dependence. Family history positive men and women both displayed low reaction to alcohol, this shows that the degree of genetic influence on alcohol related behaviour is similar for both men and women with family history of alcohol dependence. A history of childhood sexual abuse or neglect is more likely among women with alcohol problems than among women without alcohol problems. A study found by Widom and colleagues said to that there was no relationship between childhood victimization and alcohol misuse in men, even children who only witness family violence may learn to imitate the roles of aggressors or victims, setting the stage for alcohol abuse and violence to persist over generations.

In conclusion, when coming to assess whether alcohol is a cause of violence there are many reasons and evidence that supports that is does. Although there is no one model that can account for all individuals or types of violence. Alcohol apparently may increase the risk of violent behaviour only for certain individuals or subpopulations and only under some situations and social/cultural influences. Although much remains to be learned, scientists still to develop whether there is a link with alcohol and violence and to find the receptor in the brain that links it together to actually provide evidence. There are studies that show that violence in some areas are committed while people are under the influence of alcohol, so this shows that it must have an effect on some people or half of the offences wouldn’t be committed by people drinking alcohol. There is research that suggests that some violent behaviour may be amenable to treatment and some may be preventable. Results of a study suggest that a 10 percent increase in the beer tax could reduce murder by 0.3 percent, rape by 1.32 percent, and robbery by 0.9 percent. Although these results are modest, they indicate a direction for future research. In addition, preliminary experiments have identified medications that have the potential to reduce violent behaviour. Such medications include certain anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and antidepressants, especially those that increase serotonin activity. However, these studies either did not differentiate alcoholic from nonalcoholic subjects or excluded alcoholics from participation.

Alcoholics may commit crimes when they are drunk because they won’t really know what the severities of their actions are. When some people are under the influence of alcohol and drugs there mind works in many different ways and it would affect the way they are thinking and the way that they would handle some certain situations. There is evidence to show that while people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol it makes people more aggressive as it forms a substance in there liver that is highly connected with aggressiveness. You may find that if someone was being aggressive towards somebody else in a bar or a club because they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs the outcome may be dangerous because the alcohol has affected the way that they are thinking, it reduces their attention. Also there are many people that commit crimes and be more violent because they want more money to fund their drinking habits so there only option is to attack people for money because they don’t actually know what they are doing. Although alcohol consumption is widely believed to be a precipitator of violent behaviours, it is not clear whether the relationship is causal. If alcohol consumption results in a pharmacological reaction that makes people more likely to engage in violent behaviours, that implies causality. However, both behaviours may be outcomes of a third factor, such as an individual’s personality. Even without knowing the true causal nature of the alcohol violence connection, people can examine the role of alcohol price in reducing violence estimating a reduced calculation model of violence as a direct function of the full price of alcohol. Prices are not expected to have any impact on violence except through consumption. Thus, any price effects provide evidence that alcohol consumption and violence are causally linked. Violence may precede alcohol misuse in offenders as well as victims. For example, violent people may be more likely than nonviolent people to select or encounter social situations and cultures that encourage heavy drinking. In summary, violence may contribute to alcohol consumption, which in turn may perpetuate violence.


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