Can Drugs Make People Violent?

September 18, 2014

A woman sitting with her knees tucked up in bed

When a person uses drugs, she usually assumes that she will have a positive experience. She might assume that the drug will make her feel better, not worse. She might also think that because she had a positive experience in the past, her future experiences with drugs will also be positive. But the truth about drug use is that it is inherently unpredictable.

Every time a person uses drugs, she is running the risk of experiencing negative side effects, such as aggression. If a person becomes more violent from using a drug, she is putting herself and those around her in great danger.

Types of Drugs that Increase Aggression

As the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, aggression is one of the possible side effects of some kinds of drugs. Specifically, PCP, analogs of PCP and anabolic steroids have the highest potential to make a person engage in violent behavior.

The Mayo Clinic also describes how some stimulants can increase a person’s level of aggressiveness. Additionally, discuss the ways that using certain drugs can lead to aggression and violent behavior. They explain that some substances, such as alcohol, barbiturates and benzodiazepines, decrease a person’s anxiety, which in turn makes her more likely to take part in dangerous activities.

Harm Reduction Strategies

Since several different types of drugs can lead to aggression and violence, it’s best to avoid them altogether. But in the case of substances like alcohol, which is legal to consume, a person may not always wish to abstain. In these situations, many healthcare providers try instead to help the person reduce the potential harm that she may cause to herself. The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) lists the following harm reduction strategies a healthcare professional might use with his patients:

  • Discourage the potentially harmful behavior entirely
  • Encourage the person to reduce the behavior whenever possible
  • Give the person information about the potential effects of the behavior in order to possibly lessen the negative consequences of the behavior if the person does engage in it

The CPS also explains that for some people, participating in motivational interviewing can be a good way to think about the potentially negative consequences of drug use; it lists several examples of common motivational interviewing techniques, such as:

  • Open-ended questions: “How does using the substance affect getting your work done?”
  • Reflective listening: “It sounds like you are very upset about this situation. I wonder whether you are more likely to engage in substance use when you are upset?”
  • Affirmations: “Deciding not to go to that event sounds like a good choice. It may be difficult to avoid substance use if you go.”
  • Eliciting change talk: “What are some things you would like to change?”

The goal of both harm reduction strategies and motivational interviewing is to help the person understand the potential dangers of substance use, and enable her to minimize potentially harmful effects if she does engage in it. Since several drugs have the potential to make a person more violent, it’s best to either abstain completely from them or to reduce the possible harm related to using them whenever possible.

How to Get More Information About Drug Use and Violence

Drug use and violence occur together much more often than some people realize. If you are in an emergency situation please call 911. If you or your loved one are interested in exploring treatment options for addiction and mental health disorders, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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