Have you ever heard of the supervillain “Florida Man”? While not actually a villain, it’s a phenomenon where people in Florida, do illegal and sometimes violent things while on drugs.
Humor aside, it’s not uncommon to see a link between drugs and violence. Some drugs are more likely than others to induce violent behavior – which you can read more about below.
Aggression and Drugs: Who Does It Affect?
A drug doesn’t cause someone to act violently. The drug itself can’t create the motion it causes to harm someone.
It can only activate or exaggerate impulses someone’s having due to the psychological effects of the drug. It can also reduce the person’s impulse control/ability to think through the consequences of their actions – leading them to act on violent thoughts.
That’s why one person can take the same amount of one drug and not be violent, while someone else attacks their significant other.
Most of the time people who get violent or aggressive on drugs are ones who have some sort of history of abuse. That may mean they were abused as a child – the abused are 25% more likely to abuse people themselves.
If the aggression is coming from a child or a teen doing drugs, who doesn’t have a history of abuse, then it may be inspired by an outside source. There is proof that violent video games cause higher levels of aggression, but they don’t necessarily cause children to act out.
But if that person has higher levels of aggression and then does drugs, one could assume a link of consequences.
That’s not to say there haven’t been gentle people with no history of abuse and no violent media exposure that has reacted aggressively while on drugs, they’re just not the norm.
Which Drugs Are Most Likely to Induce Violent Behavior?
There’s a reason that you don’t see many, say, heroin addicts, acting violently (at least while they’re high). That’s because heroin, along with other opioids, is a depressant.
It slows down the functions in the body, including breathing patterns and heart rate. When people are high on this type of drug, they don’t normally engage in hyperactivity. That’s why you have the image of a heroin addict who passes out – they’re in a more relaxed state.
Marijuana is a depressant also. Its mellow effects are one of the reasons some states have legalized its use. You’re much less likely to engage in criminal behavior if you’re cracking up over cartoons and eating chips on the couch.
The Alcohol Issue
Alcohol is a depressant, but it doesn’t follow this same pattern. For some reason, alcohol acts more like a stimulant when it comes to personal activity and abuse.
Domestic violence is often fueled by problematic alcohol use. In fact, a study in 2003 found that of the men that killed or abused their spouses, 80% of them had some sort of alcohol abuse problem.
Many partners write off abuse when a partner is clearly intoxicated, but they shouldn’t. Domestic violence almost never gets “better” with time, as the drinking or substance abuse problem grows, so will the frequency and the intensity of the outbursts.
More on what to do if your partner becomes violent and how to keep yourself and your family safe later.
Stimulant Drugs and Violence
Aside from alcohol, stimulants are the most common category of drug that induces violent behavior. They’re called stimulants because of the effect they have on the body. Instead of “depressing” or slowing the body’s processes down, they stimulate or quicken it.
The most comparable experience (that most of us have) to stimulants is a really strong or big cup of coffee. It makes your heart rate increase, you get a boost of energy, and your thoughts start to speed up, or even race.
When a drug user on stimulants is having what feels like 1000 thoughts a minute, they’re less able to think through their actions. They do what seems like a good idea at the moment because they’re too high to think clearly.
Along with making thoughts race, stimulants heighten the intensity of emotional responses. That means if something would have aggravated or even just annoyed someone when they’re sober, it can make them furious when they’re high.
This intensified emotional reaction often leads to impulsive decisions, including abuse.
Finally, we think of things like Acid and Mushrooms as relatively mild, at least, that’s the societal idea of them as “hippie drugs”. But there is a collection of cases where a “bad trip” has led to someone to act violently.
For example, a high school graduate, in Boulder, CO took some hallucinogens and ended up stabbing his friend to death on a camping trip. The drugs made him think that his friend was trying to kill him and his friends, which is what fueled this paranoid violent behavior.
What to Do When Someone’s on Drugs
If you suspect someone’s on drugs and they’re not acting like themselves, the safest thing to do is get away from them. Many people feel like they should stay so the person doesn’t hurt themselves, but that’s not safe.
It’s more important to protect yourself and your family than to put them at risk to prevent the drug user from harming themselves.
If someone attacks you and you couldn’t leave before it happened because you didn’t know or suspect anything, call 911. If the person is threatening you, get out of the situation as fast as you can.
If you have kids, send them to the neighbors and have them call the authorities from there.
You need to take action against someone that abuses you or your family after the first instance. As we said, abuse rarely gets “better” and them promising that they’ll never do it again is rarely the truth.
Drugs and Violence: Getting Them Help
If someone in your life is affected by drugs and violence, sometimes the best thing you can do is call the police. The state will likely require them to go through rehab, and anger management courses.
The combination of getting off drugs and addressing what caused those violent thoughts is pretty much the only way to ensure that a person never becomes violent again.
If you can convince them to go to rehab without involving authorities, great! Talk to us about what’s going on.