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What Drugs Make a Person Violent?

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

Clinically Reviewed By: Karen Williams, LPC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and fact-checked by an addiction expert.

Introduction Heading

Drugs change the writing of neurotransmitters in your brain, which can lead to aggression or mood swings. These affected neurotransmitters, such as GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine, will cause drug-dependent individuals to be more aggressive than usual because of how the drug’s ingredients interact with their brains.

This resource discusses how drugs and violence go hand in hand and how their ingredients alter your mood and thinking patterns.

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Contents

How Drugs Can Make a Person Prone to Anger

What drugs make a person violent? More than one drug can make a person prone angry and agitated.

For example, alcohol is a depressant. While it can help you relax and be more sociable at the bar and party functions, it has longer-term repercussions such as depression, anxiety, and aggression if continuously consumed.

Abusing opioids can place users in a state of psychosis. This means that you are out of touch with reality and act without thinking, which could even be aggressive at times.

Cocaine affects not only the brain but the rest of the central nervous system. You can experience lower inhibitions, feeling invincible, increased anxiety, and aggression that could turn into violence because of how the chemical makeup interacts with your brain’s neurotransmitters.

Anabolic steroids interact with norepinephrine, which is responsible for regulating your emotions. Consuming too many anabolic steroids can shut off and inhibit your aggressive response. As a result, your sympathetic nervous system becomes compromised and may lead to a spike in blood pressure and heart rate.

One study performed in 2010 showed that people dependent on meth eventually experience a diminished inferior frontal gyrus, which is a part of the prefrontal cortex. This means that meth-dependent participants were more likely to respond aggressively to different situations than those who do not use meth.

What Are the Signs That Drugs Are Making Someone Violent?

There are many signs that drugs are making someone violent. The main sign is that their mood accelerates and decelerates. One moment, they seem normal and happy, but then the next minute, they are agitated and aggressive. For someone who is normally laid back, the person now seems on edge all the time.

Drugs and violence go hand-in-hand as 75% of drug-dependent individuals seeking medical treatment say that they have committed a violent crime such as an assault or a mugging. Because of these astonishing statistics, it is imperative to look out for other signs that drugs are making someone violent including:

  • Youth and males have a higher likelihood of being aggressive
  • Little things, such as a misunderstanding or a change in plans, are making the person highly upset and angry.
  • The person is highly anxious or agitated in unrelated time frames.
  • He or she seems depressed, but with a bout of anger mixed in.
  • A lack of inhibitions means a person may speak more freely as if they are sociable, but they will also turn into a different mood quickly.

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A Close Look At Anger-Inducing Drugs

Can drugs make you violent? Yes, they can. The chemicals in them can alter your brain’s neurotransmitters responsible for your emotions and mood.

These anger-inducing drugs cause aggression that is either predatory or impulsive. Predatory aggression may be one person stalking another individual or animal to scare, assault, kill, or do any combination of these harmful actions.

Drugs and violence are dangerous, no matter the type of aggression involved. Impulsive aggression is when someone is angry or violent in situations that do not involve such an intense reaction.

These behaviors may include yelling, belittling, or getting too close to someone’s personal space to attempt to emphasize a point.

The most common anger-inducing drugs are:

  • Methamphetamine.
  • Cocaine.
  • Alcohol.
  • Anabolic steroids.
  • Opioids.
  • Hallucinogens such as PCP and LSD.

Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine causes what medical professionals call meth rage. Consuming meth regularly decreases your inhibitions and makes you engage in actions you may not normally do in a normal situation.

If the person using meth already had anger and temper issues in the past or another pre-existing condition such as depression, the meth rage can escalate even further for this individual.

Meth-dependent individuals only have one mission: to find their next hit. This means that they will not think rationally, and if anything stands in the way of them securing more meth if they run out, it could turn into aggression towards whoever or whatever the threat may be.

Your subcortical systems suffer an imbalance when meth plagues your body. Aggression is more likely because the person acts before thinking about the consequences of their actions.

Hence, meth users do not become violent outright from using the drug. Other factors, such as the current environment, any possible cravings, or feelings of paranoia or anxiety, are violent behavior triggers. Everyone is different in how they react to different situations when meth-dependent.

Because of how meth messes with your memory patterns and emotional responses, you may be more apt to feel aggression because your feelings are not as regulated. Meth essentially deregulates the normal bobbing and weaving of emotions in different situations. Instead, you may feel aggression in a more sad situation or have that emotion if plans change.

Cocaine

Cocaine is a drug that can cause violent behavior in individuals. The high, euphoric feeling may feel fun after a while, but there are long-term repercussions to being cocaine-dependent.

Let’s evaluate the types of cocaine to see their addictive properties. Crack is more intense than cocaine hydrochloride because inhaling it causes a faster reaction than the usual act of snorting.

Its chemical makeup limits how long the euphoria lasts, and the aftermath of inhaling it feels much more intense than snorting cocaine hydrochloride.

Unlike alcohol, cocaine is a stimulant. You will feel more anxious, paranoid, and sometimes even impossible happiness, which can turn into anger or depression later in the day.

Aggression is likely for cocaine users because they may overthink or become suspicious that people are out to get them. They may formulate conspiracy theories in their head that are not true, which will make them act aggressively and irrationally.

As your brain continually experiences more cocaine doses, you will not feel the same high as a prior hit. Hence, cocaine-dependent users increase the dose to feel an even better euphoric and high experience.

Increasing doses over time can lead to accidental overdose, which can be fatal if the patient does not seek medical attention immediately. More cocaine in your body can do more than cause aggression, such as:

  • Heart issues.
  • Stomach conditions.
  • Lung problems.
  • Contracting HIV or Hepatitis if you inject cocaine with used needles.
  • Mood swings.
  • Libido problems.
  • Seizures.

Alcohol

Can drugs make us angry? You guessed right! While alcohol is a beverage, it has the damaging effects of pills and drugs, which is why we are also highlighting this on our list.

Alcohol is a depressant, which affects your brain and motor responses. It will inhibit your impulse control, which means you may overreact to what you may believe is a threat when it is not. Your brain cannot process information as well as it usually can without alcohol.

The cerebral cortex is the main part of your brain that intakes, processes, and interprets new information. With impaired thought processes, you may misjudge a situation and react in a way that should not have happened.

For example, a change in plans could set off an alcohol-dependent person’s aggression because they were not ready for the unexpected delay in something happening or receiving something.

If a person were to threaten you while you were drunk, rather than think clearly, the alcohol’s depressant qualities might have you stand up to the occasion like you are macho instead.

While women can become violent while under the influence of alcohol, men are more apt to have a temper when drunk. Hence, women are more at risk of being harmed if they are at the mercy of a drunk male.

Anabolic Steroids and Aggression

Anabolic steroids contain androgens that have synthetic testosterone, which acts like the real hormone in our bodies. Some teenagers take anabolic steroids if they are experiencing delayed puberty. Those enduring muscle loss from different diseases may take anabolic steroids to restore their muscles over time.

This manufactured testosterone is sometimes misused amongst bodybuilders to improve their gain and athletic performance so they can bench press more weight at once.

While anybody prescribed anabolic steroids can become addicted to them, bodybuilders have a higher likelihood of addiction because their body relies on them to maintain athletic performance and for their bodies to function overall.

Bodybuilders that stop taking anabolic steroids may experience appetite loss, feeling restless, rising and falling in mood, and desiring more of the steroids.

Bodybuilders usually take the steroid in higher doses so they can make faster gains which causes their bodies to build dependence.

The restlessness could turn into aggression whether the person is withdrawing from the steroids or still taking high doses.

Like other anger-inducing drugs on this list, anabolic steroids interact with the neurotransmitter’s response for impulse control.

When your impulse control is impaired, the presence of steroids can make it so that you are more aggressive to the people around you.

Opioids

Opioids are one drug that, in some cases, can cause violent outbursts. However, in many cases, the violent outbursts result from the withdrawal process rather than the use. 

These drugs interact with dopamine levels much like other anger-inducing drugs. Your body builds a dependence the more that you take opioids.

The heightened dopamine levels being more than normal can lead to regular aggression.

Those who use opioids will feel anxiety and an intense craving for the drug when they are unable to obtain it. Their sole mission would be to seek more opioids to maintain their feel-good reward system, as is what dopamine does for your body.

These irregularly high dopamine levels do not bode well for your body besides causing aggressive outbursts.

You may become more dishonest and have issues with family, friends, and co-workers as you may lie about your opioid dependence or other manners to secure more opioids in your possession to fuel your daily dependence.

Hallucinogens

What drug causes aggression? Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs that put people in a psychedelic state and can trigger aggressive behavior.

Hallucinogen-dependent individuals may feel that they are not in the real world. Essentially, they are experiencing different states of consciousness, which can alter their thoughts and feelings and be wackier than normal.

The two main types of hallucinogens are PCP and LSD. PCP can either be an anesthetic or a stimulant, but it depends on the dose that you take of it. Just like PCP, LSD can be a depressant and also a stimulant.

PCP

Phenylcyclohexyl piperidine, otherwise known as phencyclidine, is the technical term for PCP. It’s a dissociative hallucinogen drug that can induce violence and make your mind think different things that are not in tune with reality.

Because it interacts with the neurotransmitters responsible for emotion, you will not be able to regulate what you feel as well as you would without PCP in your body.

Hence, this could lead to more aggressive outbursts towards family members, friends, co-workers, and even innocent bystanders that have nothing to do with what you are experiencing.

You will feel detached from the world the more that you take PCP. As a Schedule II substance, you will feel depression, anxiety, and aggression as you withdraw from PCP.

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide is the technical name for LSD. The streets may also refer to LSD as LAD, LSD-25, or more simply as acid.

While you can experience more visual hallucinations from LSD, you may also have auditory ones. It’s classified as a Schedule I substance, along with MDMA and heroin.

This means these three drugs do not have a true medical need and are more likely to be abused amongst drug-dependent individuals.

Sometimes people need an escape from real life. When LSD-dependent people try the drug for the first time, they may like how relaxed it makes them feel and the different hallucinations they experience.

They may see it as a way to evade responsibilities or forget everything weighing down their minds temporarily.

No matter their reason for using LSD, it can have long-term repercussions. Besides hallucinations, you may experience seizures, compromised heartbeat, difficulty staying coordinated, restlessness, and spikes and drops in blood pressure amongst other issues.

Intense Changes In Personality

Can drugs cause personality changes? Absolutely! A once gentle and understanding person can turn anxious, aggressive, and irrational with repeated drug use.

To evaluate the personality changes in drug-dependent individuals, we will evaluate the neurotransmitters in the brain associated with emotions. These neurotransmitters are GABA, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

One’s emotions have so much to say about personality. If someone is sad all the time talking about negative topics, people may label them as pessimistic. Those that fee

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)

GABA stands for Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid. It’s a chemically-based messenger that works in your brain to stay calm and slow down during the day. This neurotransmitter has been shown to help prevent the central nervous system from feeling anxious or fearful.

People who utilize anger-inducing drugs do not feel the normal calming effects that GABA gives them in normal circumstances.

The chemicals in the drugs interact with GABA receptors and make it so that you do not feel calm or relaxed the more that one or more drugs remain in your system.

This is why drug-dependent individuals feel like they cannot shut off the buttons for their anxiety or aggression.

The GABA receptors become compromised with repeated drug use to the point that removing the drug from the person’s routine and undergoing cognitive therapy are the only tactics to reset them properly.

Dopamine

Dopamine is not only a neurotransmitter but also an essential hormone in your body. Dopamine is known as the feel-good hormone. It helps you to move, memorize information, and feel pleasure and motivation.

Too high dopamine levels can lead to aggression, competitiveness, and impulsiveness.

Since dopamine increases the more a person takes a drug, this enforces addiction. Taking the drug makes them feel good because of the dopamine. Since your dopamine levels will only become higher the more that you take a drug, you may experience:

  • Insomnia.
  • Mood swings.
  • Difficulty remaining attentive.
  • Trouble learning new things.
  • Memory issues.
  • Anxiety.
  • Too much energy.
  • Too high of a libido.
  • Constant drugs seek to keep your dopamine levels high.

Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine is another neurotransmitter that is also a hormone. It helps to elevate your blood pressure in different situations, such as when you have your “fight or flight” response when utilized as a medication.

Many drugs, in general, can increase your blood pressure when repeatedly used, disregarding norepinephrine’s normal functions in your brain.

It is in the catecholamine family, along with epinephrine and dopamine. Collectively, they are essentially the adrenaline in your body.

They will determine whether you face a fear, flee from it, or freeze while it is happening.

When these hormones are compromised because of drug use, your “fight or flight” response will also become faulty. Hence, you will start acting more before you think rather than contemplating the consequences before taking action.

What if Drugs are Making Me Violent?

If you are using drugs known to induce violence, you should get help immediately.

Especially if you notice that you are repeatedly getting violent with others, the fact that you have this self-awareness is great! You recognize that you are not yourself and need help to turn your life around.

We are here for you whenever you may need treatment from us. Give us a call or text, whatever mode of contact you prefer.

Representatives are standing by 24/7 to help answer your questions about our programs, insurance coverage, amenities, and more. Take the first step in admitting you have a problem and reach out for help.

If you are the person that is getting violent, here are some do’s and don’ts to follow as you go about seeking help:

DO:

  • Decide to get help.
  • Call a drug and alcohol treatment center to get help.
  • Give yourself grace through the process.
  • Try to give yourself positive affirmations even if all seems hopeless.
  • Call or text our facility when you feel you are ready.
  • Have someone (or yourself) bring you to the facility when prepared.
  • Find a hobby or an activity that calms you down, so you can relax as you seek help.

DON’T:

  • Wait until you seriously hurt someone or have legal consequences for getting help. 
  • Fight the process.

What If Someone I Love Is Using Drugs and Being Violent? 

If someone you love is being violent because of drugs, do not hesitate to contact us on our call/text line.

While you cannot force your loved ones into seeking treatment, even if you know they truly need it, we have other options to explore, such as intervention. 

If you are having trouble taking the first steps in discussing addiction treatment, contact us for pointers.

When trying to encourage your loved one to seek medical help, here are some do’s and don’ts so you can go about the process properly:

DO:

  • In situations of extreme violence, where your life has been threatened, reach out to a professional to create a plan to leave or have your loved one removed from your home. 
  • Establish strong boundaries.
  • Involve another friend or family member to protect you from further acts of violence. 
  • Bring in a professional to talk to your loved one about getting help for their addiction.

DON’T:

  • Enable them because you are afraid
  • Stay in the same house if you fear for your life. 
  • Hope that they will get sober on their own (people rarely do without professional or legal intervention)
  • Act aggressively with them as it can trigger the same behavior from them.

 

Sources:

[1] Don’t Blame Amygdala for Meth Users’ Aggression

[2] How Drugs & Alcohol Can Fuel Violent Behaviors

Deciding to get sober is hard. Getting help shouldn't be.

Begin your journey
by calling us now.

Questions about drug and alcohol treatment? We can answer your questions. 

Author: Cornerstone Content Team

Author: Cornerstone Content Team

Cornerstone's content team is comprised of writers with experience and expertise in addiction, treatment, and recovery.

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Clinical Reviewer: Karen Williams, LPC

Karen is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 15 years experience. She not only specializes in addiction, but is in recovery as well. Karen is our clinical director.

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