Articles / Blog
Aggressive behavior may increase risk of substance abuse, says study
Posted in Substance Abuse

Some people tend to be more aggressive than others. The tendency to be aggressive is an innate part of one’s personality, often linked to the tendency of self-harming or causing injury to people around. However, some may regard aggression as simply a character flaw. Scientists identify this behavioral trait as intermittent explosive disorder (IED), characterized by regular physical or verbal flare-ups.

In a recent study, titled “Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Substance Use Disorder: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Sample,” by a group of researchers from the University of Chicago suggested that people afflicted with IED have five times higher risk for misusing illicit substances like alcohol, tobacco and cannabis compared with those who do not exhibit such hostile attitude. The study is based on the premise of how researchers, in the past, associated aggressive behavior with substance abuse.

Examining link between aggression and substance abuse

The study, published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in February 2017, observed details of over 9,200 respondents in the National Comorbidity Survey, a nation-wide study concerning mental health of America. The scientists observed that levels of daily and weekly substance abuse are proportional to the extremity of aggressive behavior. The researchers found that manifesting symptoms of belligerent nature in the past had raised the possibility of abusing substances in future. The authors of the study said that treating aggression efficiently could slow down or do away the possibility of any future drug abuse among the youth.

Emphasizing on the findings, co-author of the study Emil F. Coccaro, the Ellen C. Manning professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago, said, “People don’t see this as a medical problem. They think of it as simply bad behavior they have developed over the course of their lives, but it isn’t. It has significant biology and neuroscience behind it.”

Stressing on how emotional intervention, effective medicines and use of cognitive therapy are efficient in slowing down or preventing possibilities of aggressive teenagers exploring options like substance abuse, Coccaro added, “What you’re really treating is the emotional dysregulation that leads to aggression. The earlier you treat this dysregulation, the more likely you are to offset other disorders that come later down the road.”

Aggressive behavior can be due to weak state of mental health

The findings stressed on how aggressive behavior in patients afflicted with IED is mainly due to the weak state of their mental health when they exhibit anxiousness or symptoms of depressive disorder. The study, however, could not explain the cause-and-effect relationship. Though addictive behavior can help worsen aggression in some individuals, the outset of IED is a foregoing factor in many instances of protracted substance abuse. The researchers noted their observations after finding that symptoms of IED were already present in 92.5 percent respondents who had been abusing drugs. People abusing illicit substances have also shown signs of aggression due to lack of control over self.

Road to recovery

Researchers often detect signs of IED in teenagers as young as 11 years old. Substance abuse problems in teenagers develop at much later stage. Most people misconstrue IED as a socio-behavioral characteristic as opposed to its psychological roots and, hence, fail to get their affected loved ones treated.

The fact that mental health problems can trigger tendencies to abuse substances necessitates the treatment of mental health problems at the earliest. The Sovereign Health of Texas evaluates its patients in a detailed manner before recommending necessary pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Evidence-based recovery solutions are offered to patients suffering from comorbidity between mental illnesses and drug abuse problems. If you are looking for effective solutions regarding co-occurring disorders, call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-399-5740 or chat online with our representatives for expert advice.

Stay connected with Sovereign Health

Get the latest news on program developments, behavioral health news and company announcements