Alcohol Fuels Domestic Violence, While Marijuana Doesn't - Guess Which One the Feds Are Demonizing

The risk of intimate partner violence increases the more one drinks. That’s the take-away message from a just published study in the January edition of the scientific journal Addictive Behaviors.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee and Florida State University assessed whether the consumption of alcohol and/or cannabis by college-age men in a current dating relationship was associated with increased odds of physical, sexual, or psychological aggression toward their partner over a 90-day period.  
Investigators reported: “On any alcohol use days, heavy alcohol use days (five or more standard drinks), and as the number of drinks increased on a given day, the odds of physical and sexual aggression perpetration increased. The odds of psychological aggression increased on heavy alcohol use days only.” By contrast, authors also reported, “Marijuana use days did not increase the odds of any type of aggression.”
They concluded, “These findings are consistent with prior research … which suggests that heavy alcohol use, and particularly the acute intoxicating effects of alcohol, may increase the odds of intimate partner violence to the greatest degree.”
The study’s findings, though notable, should hardly come as a surprise. Booze has a long and sordid association with violent and aggressive behavior. Victim survey data analyzed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that just over a quarter of all violent crimes – and specifically, some three out of every four incidents of intimate partner violence – are committed by an offender who had recently been drinking. Separate data tracking alcohol use rates and homicide rates over multiple decades reports that rising and falling rates of murder are closely correlated with the nation’s drinking patterns. 
And what about pot? Unlike with alcohol, experts’ assessments of cannabis’s potential role in violent behavior have reported no demonstrable link between consumption and increased incidences of violent behavior.
For example, as initially concluded in 1972 by President Richard Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, “[M]arihuana is not generally viewed by participants in the criminal justice community as a major contributing influence in the commission of delinquent or criminal acts.”

Three decades later, members of a Canadian-government appointed expert commission similarly affirmed: “Cannabis use does not induce users to commit other forms of crime. Cannabis use does not increase aggressiveness or anti-social behavior.

That same year, British Parliament advisory officials likewise concluded: “Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.”

More recent peer-reviewed science further dismisses any tangible link between cannabis consumption and increased risks of either violence or personal injury. For instance, a 2005 logistical retrogression analysis of approximately 900 trauma patients by SUNY-Buffalo’s Department of Family Medicine reported that use of cannabis is not independently associated with either violent or non-violent injuries requiring hospitalization. More recently, a 2010 review published in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine concluded that lifetime use of marijuana is rarely associated with emergency room visits. Others studies have even gone so far as to conclude that the use of cannabis is inversely associated with injuries requiring hospitalization whereas recent (within the prior six hours) alcohol consumption increases one’s risk of serious injury three-fold.

Nevertheless, opponents of marijuana law reform still continue to publicly allege a supposed marijuana and violence link and, most recently, officials at the federally funded US National Institutes on Drug Abuse granted $2 million to researchers for the purpose of investigating the potential association between – you guessed it – marijuana consumption and domestic violence.

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