Anger May Stem from Alcohol and Other Drugs

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Buck Black offers psychotherapy for anger issues through his practice in the Lafayette Indiana area ( via phone, email, and office visits. He ...Read More

There can be more to the anger iceberg than just feelings. Often people come to my office because of anger management issues and when I assess them for the reason behind the anger, they have extensive alcohol or other drug use. Others may have a brain injury.

In cases where drinking or other drug use is present, anger is often the symptom of the drug’s attack on the brain. Often, the more and more a person uses drugs, the angrier he or she becomes. There are many reasons this results in anger, namely the withdrawal once a person runs out of drugs, the family problems stemming from the drug use, the drug user’s guilt, and the chemical attack on the brain as a direct result from the use.


I want to stress that anger management is usually ineffective for a person who is angry and frequently using alcohol or other drugs. You can do anger management with such a person until you are blue in the face—and it will not work! Believe me, I have tried this in my office during my younger days in my career. Yes, I even fell into the thinking that an anger management program was the answer for a drug user who was angry. Now that I know drugs are often the cause for anger, I refer this type of client to a substance abuse program. Once he/she has completed such a program, the anger is often gone. Occasionally, there is a need for anger management once the substance abuse program has been completed and the client has remained clean and sober. I am always glad to have such a client in my anger management program. A 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is an excellent long-term program that helps many to stay clean and sober and it does not cost a dime!

Another cause for anger can be a brain injury. The frontal lobes of the brain, located behind the forehead, are responsible for controlling impulses, such as anger. A simple injury, such as a car crash, falling and hitting your head, or other accident can turn a rather mellow person into someone full of rage. Actually, it is rather scary how easily one can damage his/her brain and become easily angered.

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For cases where brain injuries are the primary cause for anger, I recommend seeing a neurologist before starting anger management. Often there are medical interventions that need to occur before an anger management program is appropriate. In these cases, there is often a need for psychiatric drugs in combination with anger management. Depending on the client, various other forms of other therapy can also be beneficial. Although many people believe brain injuries do not get better, there is often hope. I have personally seen many clients learn to control their anger in spite of having a brain injury. However, I will admit that it is difficult and takes a great deal of work. Remember, it is possible to calm yourself and lead a much better life.

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