Assault and Alcohol Abuse: A Deadly Combination

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Assault and Alcohol Abuse_

Alcohol abuse doesn’t mean that a person is physically dependent on alcohol, but they might be more likely to have trouble at home, work, or school. It can drive normally well-behaved people to commit crimes like assault. There are a variety of different assault crimes, ranging from physical assault, verbal assault, and sexual assault—alcohol abuse can play a role in each of these.

Have you ever known a person who’s suddenly braver or tougher as soon as they have a couple drinks? Alcohol abuse can drive people do things they normally wouldn’t do; like ask someone to dance, buy a round for the whole bar, pick a fight, or take advantage of another person’s sexual vulnerability. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, because some are more violent and aggressive than others; a lot of good people do really bad things and commit crimes like assault after they abuse alcohol.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse can lead people to commit crimes that might seem out of character—crimes like drunk driving, public intoxication, or even assault. Alcohol abuse can also lead to dangerous scenarios like binge drinking and even alcoholism. With alcohol abuse, “you are not physically dependent, but you still have a serious problem….drinking may cause problems at home, work, or school. It may cause you to put yourself in dangerous situations, or lead to legal or social problems” (U.S. National Library of Medicine).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism further defines alcohol abuse as:

  • Failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance, neglect of children or household)
  • Continued drinking even in situations where it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile or operating machinery)
  • Recurrent alcohol–related legal problems (e.g., arrests for disorderly conduct while drinking)
  • Continued drinking despite persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems it may cause (e.g., arguments with spouse, physical fights).

Not Everyone Who Abuses Alcohol Commits A Crime

To clarify, alcohol abuse doesn’t always lead to crime, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics “the vast majority of those who consume alcohol do not engage in criminal behavior. However, since non offending behavior is not typically measured, there is little statistical information upon which to base any estimate of the likelihood of committing a criminal act when drinking or followed by a period of drinking.” So the point here is not to say that everyone who abuses alcohol will assault someone, but there is definitely a chance that some will.

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What Types Of Assault Can Be Due To Alcohol Abuse?

According to the Office of Justice Programs, “assault is defined as an unlawful physical attack or threat of attack. Assaults may be classified as aggravated or simple. Rape, attempted rape, and sexual assaults are excluded from this category… The severity of assaults ranges from minor threats to incidents which are nearly fatal.”

“Alcohol may encourage aggression or violence by disrupting normal brain function. According to the disinhibition hypothesis, for example, alcohol weakens brain mechanisms that normally restrain impulsive behaviors, including inappropriate aggression” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Alcohol and assault is a deadly combination that can be pretty scary for the victim—it can also be an avoidable situation. The different types of assault that can be a result of alcohol abuse are:

  • Felonious Assault
  • Simple Assault
  • Physical Assault
  • Aggravated Assault
  • Sexual Assault
  • Verbal Assault

Alcohol Abuse And Felonious Assault

Assault and Alcohol Abuse_Violent CrimesA felonious assault includes bodily harm with a weapon—and it can land a person in prison for up to four years. A further definition of felonious assault is when “a person who assaults another person with a gun, revolver, pistol, knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles, or other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm less than murder” (U.S. Legal).

Because there isn’t a substantial amount of data for alcohol related felonious assaults, the evidence is generally based on the victim’s perception of their assailant; however, “based on victim perceptions, about 2.7 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims are certain that the offender had been drinking” (U.S. Department of Justice).

Alcohol Abuse And Simple Assault

A simple assault is an “attack without a weapon resulting either in no injury, minor injury or an undetermined injury requiring less than 2 days of hospitalization” (BJS). Simple assaults can also be charged for attempted assault without a weapon. There are a large number of people serving either probation, or jail sentences for a simple assault crime; and at minimum simple assaults are punishable by jail time.

As previously stated, “about 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking at the time of the offense. Among those victims who provided information about the offender’s use of alcohol, about 35% of the victimizations involved an offender who had been drinking. About two-thirds of the alcohol-involved crimes were characterized as simple assaults” (Bureau of Justice Statistics – BJS).

Alcohol Abuse— Physical Assault And Expectations

A physical assault is any case when a person uses force to cause harm or injure another person. This aggressive behavior may be a result of more than just a drunken stupor; it can happen simply because of an individual’s beliefs about what alcohol is supposed to do—this is good information to know if you ever need to break up a bar fight.

Assault and Alcohol Abuse_Convicted Of Assult

In an interesting study brought to light by the NIAAA suggests that, “alcohol consumption may promote aggression because people expect it to. For example, research using real and mock alcoholic beverages shows that people who believe they have consumed alcohol begin to act more aggressively, regardless of which beverage they actually consumed.”

Alcohol Abuse And Aggravated Assault

An aggravated assault is an “attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred” (BJS). According to the NIAAA “Most alcohol–related offenses are crimes of violence, such as aggravated assault and homicide.”

Alcohol Abuse And Verbal Assault

Assault is more than just doing physical harm to a person, causing injury, or hospitalization. It can also be the act of threatening somebody or causing them to fear for their life or safety. These kind of threats are known as verbal assaults. There isn’t a significant amount of information to argue that alcohol abuse is related to verbal abuse, but because alcohol causes people to act more aggressively, it is pretty safe to say that there is a correlation between the two. Verbal abuse also falls under this category…

Alcohol Abuse And Sexual Assault

Alcohol abuse can potentially make sexually aggressive men even more sexually aggressive, and as a result be the cause of a fair amount of sexual assault cases. In fact, from the NIAAA “BAC levels of 0.05 percent or higher were estimated by 90 percent of inmates convicted of murder and sexual assault who reported drinking at the time of their crimes, by 86 percent of those convicted of robbery, and by 78 percent of those convicted of assault.”

These statistics can’t be used as proof that alcohol abuse is a direct cause of all sexual assault and violent crimes, because other factors like environment, mental disorders and poverty must also be factored in. There are still a lot cases—one statistic of college students is that “97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape” (NIAAA).

Sexual Assault—The Silent Epidemic

“Sexual assault of adolescent and adult women has been called a silent epidemic, because it occurs at high rates yet is rarely reported to the authorities. Several reasons contribute to the underreporting of sexual assault cases. Many victims do not tell others about the assault, because they fear that they will not be believed or will be derogated, which, according to research findings, is a valid concern” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).

Assault And Alcohol Abuse Statistics

It is suggested that the majority of assault and other violent crimes involve alcohol or another drug. In fact the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that, “two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (partner) reported that alcohol had been a factor. Among spouse victims, 3 out of 4 incidents were reported to have involved an offender who had been drinking.”

Assault and Alcohol Abuse_Spouse

Alcohol abuse is more common than you might think, and it isn’t just happening on college campuses. Although when it comes to assault, each year “696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking” (NIAAA). There are an estimated 5,539 people in prison for assault, kidnapping, or homicide; and about 15,315 people in prison for sex offenses.

How To Get Treatment For An Alcohol Problem

Alcohol abuse is a widespread problem. It’s not just on the college campuses, in the ghettos, or in rural areas—it’s everywhere. You might even be a person suffering from alcohol abuse, or woman who is hiding the truth about a sexual assault that happened in your past. If you have questions about alcohol abuse or assault, please contact us today at 800-247-9938. Alcohol abuse and assault are major problems in The United States, but don’t have to be a problem for you.

For More Information Related to “Assault and Alcohol Abuse: A Deadly Combination” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From

Alcohol Abuse and Anger Issues

Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholism And Relationships

Alcohol-Induced Psychosis



Federal Bureau of Prisons – BOP Inmate Statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Alcohol Alert
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Alcohol Abuse and Sexual Assault
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Alcohol Abuse Facts and Statistics
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Harmful Alcohol Use
U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics: Assault
U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics: Alcohol and Crime
U.S. Legal – Felonious Assault Law and Legal Definition
U.S. National Library of Medicine – Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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