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Psychoactive Substances and Violence, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
8 pages
Publication Series
This report summarizes the current status of research on the relationship between violence and drugs, including alcohol and illegal psychoactive drugs, and evaluations of intervention to prevent drug-related violence.
Results reveal that research has uncovered strong correlations between violence and psychoactive substances, but the underlying relationships differ by type of drugs. The links between violence and drugs involve broad social and economic forces, the settings in which people obtain and consume the drugs, and biological processes that underlie all human behavior. These factors interact in chains of events that may extend back from an intermediate triggering event such as an argument to long-term predisposing processes that begin in childhood. Of all the psychoactive substances, alcohol is the only one whose consumption has been shown to commonly increase aggression. Certain individuals may also experience violent outbursts after large doses of amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, probably because of preexisting psychosis. Research is needed on the pharmacological effects of crack, which enters the brain more directly than cocaine used in other forms. The most promising strategies for reducing alcohol-related violence are to reduce underage drinking through drug prevention education, taxes, law enforcement, and peer pressure. The most promising strategy for reducing violence related to illegal drugs appears to be reducing the demand that fosters violent illegal markets. In the future, medications may reduce violence by reducing cocaine craving and by blocking the aggression-promoting effects of opiate withdrawal and alcohol consumption. Table and notes

Date Published: January 1, 1994