People commonly think that intoxication causes speeding. Or driving recklessly. Most think that it causes aggression such as fights, domestic violence, etc. And many think it causes people to act in sexually inappropriate ways.
Of course, these are also common assertions to juries in court cases involving drunken people.
But intoxication does not cause people to do these things. Intoxication is often linked with these behaviors but doesn’t cause them. The simple fact is that alcohol does not act on peoples’ brains to inhibit them.
The Think-Drink Effect
Research shows that drunken people have much greater control over their actions than most people think. For example, in some isolated societies people don’t think alcohol causes disinhibition. In those societies, intoxication doesn’t cause bad behavior. But when they “learn” that alcohol disinhibits, it does. That is, when intoxicated, they become disinhibited when intoxicated.1
Dr. Robin Room explains that “Because intoxication is culturally regarded as causing obstreperous or evil behavior, getting drunk indeed has these effects and, to an extent, legitimates them. A desire to be obstreperous may thus motivate a drunken episode.”2 One man in a violent offender program had a profound insight. “When I first came to your program I told you that I hit my wife because I was drunk. Now I realize that I drank so that I could hit her.”3 Dr. Scott Hampton is a violence prevention expert, He notes that in our society “Alcohol acts as a permission slip.”4 It gives us an excuse to do what would otherwise be unacceptable. “Don’t blame me, it was the alcohol that made me do it.”
Research has long been done falsely convincing people that they have been drinking alcohol. When males falsely believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they tend to become more aggressive and sexual. And when men and women falsely believe that they have been drinking alcohol, they have greater sexual arousal from erotica.5 In doing so, they conform to societal beliefs about the effects of alcohol.6
So is it true that intoxication causes speeding? Or aggression? Or bad sexual behavior?
It’s not the alcohol, it’s the person who acts. The ancient Chinese proverb says, it well. Drunken behavior is the fault the person, not the alcohol.” Research now shows that the Chinese wisdom is correct.
Resources: Alcohol Intoxication Causes Speeding, Aggression, etc.?
- Graham, K. Theories of intoxicated aggression. Can J Behav Sci, 1980, 12, 141-158.
- Grattan, K., and Vogel-Sprott, M. Neurobiological, behavioral, and environmental relations to drinking. Alco Clin Exper Res, 2001, 25(2), 192-197.
- Hamilton, C., & Collins, J. The Role of Alcohol in Wife Beating and Child Abuse: A Review. In Collins, J. (Ed.), Drinking and Crime. NY: Guilford, 1981. Pp. 253-287.
- Marshall, M. An Anthropological View of Ethanol as a Disinhibitor. In: Room, R., and Collins, G. (Eds.) Alcohol and Disinhibition. Rockville, MD: NIAAA, 1981. pp. 186-204. P. 200.
- Ortner, C., et al. Alcohol intoxication reduces impulsivity. Alco Alco, 2003, 38, 151-156.
- Zubretsky, T. The False Connection between Adult Domestic Violence and Alcohol. In Roberts, A.(Ed.), Helping Battered Women. NY: Oxford U Press, 1996.
1. MacAndrew, C., and Edgerton R. Drunken Comportment. A Social Explanation. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.
2. Room, R. The impossible dream? J Sub Abuse, 1992, 4, 91-106. P. 103.
3. Hampton, S. Alcohol and Sexual Assault: The Connection.
5. Marlatt, G., and Rosenow, D. The think-drink effect. Psy Today, 1981, 15, 60-93.
6. Room, Ibid.