Intoxicated aggression: Do alcohol and stimulants cause dose-related aggression? A review

KPC Kuypers*, R J Verkes, W van den Brink, JGC van Amsterdam, J G Ramaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

14 Citations (Web of Science)


RATIONALE: Violence and drug use are significant public health challenges that are strongly linked. It is known that alcohol plays a major role in the causation of unnatural deaths and that stimulants like cocaine and amphetamine are often implicated in aggressive acts or violence. However, a clear causal relationship between these substances and aggression, and more specifically a blood concentration threshold at which intoxicated aggression emerges is lacking. In case of a crime and subsequent law enforcement, knowledge about dose-response relationships could be of pivotal importance when evaluating the role of alcohol and drugs in aggressive offences.

AIMS: The present review aimed to determine whether there is a causal relation between intoxication with these psychoactive substances and aggression, and to define blood concentration thresholds above which these substances elicit aggression.

METHODS: Empirical articles published between 2013 and 2017 and review papers containing the predefined search strings were identified through searches in the PubMed and Embase databases and additional reference list searches. The complete search query yielded 1578 publications. Initially all articles were manually screened by title and abstract. Articles with irrelevant titles, given the selected search terms and review aims were discarded. Remaining articles were carefully studied and those that did not comply with the main objectives of this review were discarded. At the end of this process, 167 titles were found eligible for review.

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION: While placebo-controlled experimental studies clearly showed a causal link between alcohol and aggression, it is evident that such a link has not yet been established for cocaine and amphetamines. In case of alcohol, it is clear that there are various individual and contextual factors that may contribute to the occurrence of an aggressive act during intoxication. A clear threshold blood alcohol concentration has not been defined yet for alcohol, but a statistically significant increase of aggression has been demonstrated at a dose of 0.75 g/kg and higher. Future studies into intoxicated aggression should include multiple doses of alcohol and stimulants and take into account individual and contextual factors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-147
Number of pages34
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Early online date23 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Intoxicated aggression
  • Dose-related

Cite this