Alcohol Rage Syndrome: The Connection Between Alcohol And Rage

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Many of us have known at least one person who “can’t hold his or her liquor.”  Or perhaps we are that person. We just know that once the drinks start flowing things can get pretty ugly. 

Drinking alcohol has long been related to increased anger, aggression, and even violence. Research reveals that alcohol is associated with about half of all violent crimes committed in the United States. 

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) alcohol more so than any other substance is a contributing factor in cases of rape, murder, spousal and child abuse, and assault.

Even in less extreme cases, alcoholic rage can threaten one’s relationships, careers, safety, and more. We know that alcohol may have an impact on one’s emotions and behaviors but how exactly does that work? And why do some people experience anger when drinking, while others do not? Let’s delve into the relationship between alcohol and anger, and explore ways alcohol-related rage can be prevented. We will also identify some ways to manage alcohol-related rage once it occurs.

What is Alcohol Rage Syndrome?

Alcoholic rage is characterized by behavior that becomes hostile, or aggressive when under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol can intensify existing emotions, often resulting in an exaggerated display of anger. In some cases violence can occur, putting others in danger. 

Rage can be triggered by many things, over words at a social gathering, being refused another drink, or even from perceived slights. Managing and understanding the triggers for this aggressive behavior is critical when dealing with an angry inebriated individual especially when attempting to diffuse the situation.

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Why Does Alcohol Cause Rage?

The connection between alcohol and rage can be understood by looking at changes in the brain. When we drink the alcohol in our bloodstream reaches our brain within about five minutes. As our blood alcohol concentration (BAC) elevates personality changes can become more extreme.

Drinking alcohol releases norepinephrine into the brain, a stimulant that can decrease our inhibitions while increasing our impulsivity. Alcohol also depresses the part of the brain in charge of rational decision-making.

People can be more prone to alcoholic rage based on genetics, life stressors, antisocial personality disorder, or personality traits such as underlying irritability. In other words, for some anger that they would normally control when sober manifests itself once alcohol disrupts the brain chemistry. In addition, research discovered that the effects of alcohol on aggression are more pronounced in people who think more about the “here and now” than about the future. When we aren’t concerned about consequences we may be more likely to act out in the moment.

What is the Connection Between Alcohol and Violence?

Impairment in judgment and impulse control from heavy drinking can cause anger to escalate to rage and even violence. Literature from PubMed Central indicates that alcohol-related aggression often occurs among individuals who engage in chronic alcohol consumption and have become dependent. 

Studies have estimated that up to 50% of alcohol-dependent males display violent behavior. The risk is five times higher than groups with no alcohol abuse.

It is important to note that alcohol-related aggression and/or violence do not occur in the majority of all chronic alcohol consumers or all alcohol-dependent individuals. However, there is a higher incidence of violence among chronic drinkers.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol-related rage there are some steps you can take to prevent future incidents. 

Identify the root of the anger

Anger is a normal human emotion that we all feel at times and for different reasons. It can even be productive because it tells us we need to address some things that aren’t going well in our lives. However, it becomes a problem when we express it in harmful ways.  

Examples of root causes can be relationship problems, work difficulties, feelings of low self-esteem, unresolved trauma, or other issues that feel out of your control and make you susceptible to lashing out. 

Seek Support  

A qualified counselor or coach can help you identify underlying issues. They can also assist you with developing healthy strategies to work through your anger along with the coping skills to deal with anger when it surfaces. Online programs such as Ria Health provide confidential support from the comfort of your home. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can also be effective as they allow you to express your feelings and provide tools to work through your anger.

Moderate Your Drinking

Although it may be easier said than done, dialing back your drinking can alleviate the problem. If you notice a connection between drinking heavily and your feelings of anger it is well worth trying this proactive approach.  Moderating your drinking or abstaining altogether (especially when you are experiencing strong emotions) can help you view situations from a more clear and rational perspective.

You may be wondering what you can do when someone shows signs of rage after consuming too much alcohol. While it is always better to discourage the use of alcohol for people who have this tendency, some things can be done to manage the situation.

Leave the scene together

As soon as you sense any tension calmly suggest leaving to get a bite to eat, a cup of coffee or to go to a quieter location. You can even say you are tired or not feeling great and want to head out. 

Stay calm

Moods can be contagious. By keeping calm and speaking in a relaxed tone of voice you are sending a signal to your friend that all is well. This is much more effective than telling them to “calm down”; which unfortunately can have the opposite effect. 

Offer support

Timing is key when having this conversation. It is best to choose a time when your friend is thinking clearly and seems receptive. Let them know you are concerned about the pattern you have noticed and how they may benefit from a recovery program. They may not be aware of the newer and more convenient options that exist today.

Online programs like Ria Health can give you or your loved one access to coaching support, anti-craving medication, and helpful digital tools. Whether you want to reduce drinking or quit altogether Ria will partner with you to design a program to meet your personal goals. 

Get in touch with Ria today, or learn more about how it works.

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Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer who believes in the uplifting power of words. She especially enjoys writing about health, relationships, employment, and living one’s best life. Lisa has a Master’s in Education and previously worked in vocational and educational services. Her articles can be found on Your Tango, Thrive Global, Heart to Heart, Medium, Muck Rack, and on various professional websites.
Reviewed By:
Ria Health Team
Ria Health’s editorial team is a group of experienced copywriters, researchers, and healthcare professionals dedicated to removing stigma and improving public knowledge around alcohol use disorder. Articles written by the “Ria Team” are collaborative works completed by several members of our writing team, fact-checked and edited to a high standard of empathy and accuracy.

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