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How to Deal with an Angry Drunk

Why are Some People Angry Drunks?

Everyone is familiar with the angry drunk stereotype, and with good reason. Drinking alcohol can elicit different emotions; anger is one of them.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol and anger are closely linked. Alcohol is tied to aggression more than other types of psychotropic substances.

Alcohol is a depressant and impairs decision-making. While drinking, you may have little to no self-control. Because of this, some alcoholics may be prone to sudden bursts of anger.

Here are a few other reasons why people get angry when drunk:

  • Short temperament
  • Anger management issues
  • Impulsive behavior

Understanding Alcohol and Aggression 

A 2018 study examined MRI scans to see alcohol-related changes in the brain. Results showed decreased prefrontal cortex activity, affecting inhibition and working memory.

Because of this, alcohol can increase hostility and impulsivity while reducing emotional control and self-awareness.

Essentially, alcohol takes a toll on judgment, memory, and reasoning. If you have a natural tendency towards anger, alcohol can make it worse.

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Factors that Influence Aggression While Drunk

Several factors influence how alcohol affects aggression, such as:

  • Insomnia or sleep deprivation caused by alcohol use
  • Family history of aggression while under the influence of alcohol
  • Financial difficulty
  • Difficulty maintaining familial or social obligations
  • Lack of empathy

These factors can lead to increased anger, especially while affected by excessive drinking. 

However, researchers have suggested that some people may consciously use alcohol to excuse their aggressive drinking behavior.

If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, professional help is available. While this may be a tough time, you don't need to face recovery alone.

For victims of domestic violence or violent crimes, reach out for help immediately.

3 Ways to Deal with an Angry Drunk

Dealing with an angry drunk person can be challenging. At worst, it can be dangerous. These people won’t be in the right state of mind, and they won’t react rationally. They might not even be aware of what’s happening.

The best way for you to de-escalate the situation is by removing yourself. If you are worried about your safety, reach out for emergency help. 

You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at any time.

Staying away and waiting for help is the safest way to handle an angry drunk. However, this might not always be possible.

Here are a few ways of handling this type of situation:

1. Talk to Them When They are Sober

Don’t try to engage with an angry drunk person. You should remove yourself from the situation and wait for them to sober up.

As mentioned, people in this state won’t be the most accommodating. Tempers can flare, and a conversation might trigger their anger.

There’s a big chance of getting hurt when you try to talk to them while they’re drunk. You won’t help anyone by getting yourself hurt.

You’ll have a better chance of talking to them while they’re sober. That'll give you a better chance of communicating with them.

2. Try to Distract Them

While it might not always work, distractions can help de-escalate a situation. If you see your drunk loved one getting angry, try to distract them. You can start a new topic or take them away from the situation.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to be careful and sensitive. Make sure not to bring up anything that could flare tempers or worsen their mood.

3. Seek Help

If they express any interest in recovering from alcoholism, encourage them to get help. Consider calling an addiction expert or counselor.

If you live with someone whose drinking behavior is dangerous for you, seek immediate help.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is free, confidential, and available 24/7. Help them find professional help.

Helping an alcoholic also helps you.

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How to Stop Being an Angry Drunk

If you get angry when you drink, be mindful of your alcohol intake. The most obvious step would be to refrain from drinking.

This is easier said than done, especially if you have an alcohol addiction.

If you're worried that you may have an alcohol addiction, reach out for professional help. Don't try to cut back on alcohol alone — alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and even deadly.

If you have an alcohol use disorder and a mental health problem, you need to seek help for both conditions. 

Insurance Can Help Pay for Addiction Treatment

Call now to speak with a specialist about your insurance benefits.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

There are many treatment options available for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and addiction, including:

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing with access to professional medical monitoring. 

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.

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Updated on August 15, 2022
9 sources cited
  1. ALCOHOL'S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Dean, Mary Elizabeth. “How To Handle An 'Angry Drunk'.” BetterHelp, BetterHelp, 7 May 2019. 
  3. Denson, Thomas F., et al. “The Neural Correlates of Alcohol-Related Aggression.” Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, Springer US, 8 Jan. 2018.
  4. Lovinger, D M. “Serotonin's Role in Alcohol's Effects on the Brain.” Alcohol Health and Research World, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1997. 
  5. “National Domestic Violence Hotline.” The Hotline, 15 Dec. 2020, www.thehotline.org/.
  6. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol's Effects on the Body.” Harvard Health.
  7. RJ;, Piasecki TM;Trela CJ;Mermelstein. “Hangover Symptoms, Heavy Episodic Drinking, and Depression in Young Adults: A Cross-Lagged Analysis.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  8. Saghir, Zahid, et al. “The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection?” Cureus, Cureus, 2 July 2018.
  9. Beck A, Heinz A. Alcohol-related aggression. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online. 2013.

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