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Aggression disorder linked to greater risk of substance abuse, says study

Occasional outburst of anger or display of aggressive behavior in response to certain situations may be a normal human trait but repeated occurrence of the same may indicate aggression disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is an aggression disorder involving “several discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious assaultive acts or destruction of property,” as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. Patients with IED find it difficult to control their impulses and tend to violate social norms and rights of others with their hostility.

Generally, IED starts to appear during adolescence and runs in families. In addition to public display of violent behavior, IED is also associated with risk of other mental health problems, substance abuse being one of them. A recent study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in February 2017, has studied the association between aggression disorder and substance abuse in detail.

Aggressive people have five-times the risk of abusing substances

The study, titled “Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Substance Use Disorder: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Sample” aimed at finding if impulsive aggression can contribute to substance use disorder. Researchers demonstrated a daily and weekly increase in the levels of substance use with increase in the severity of aggressive behavior. They also suggested possible role of the history of frequent, aggressive behavior in the development of substance abuse in later life. The study concluded by saying that people exhibiting symptoms of IED are at five times greater risk of abusing substances that those who are in better control of themselves. However, timely treatment of aggression disorder was found to be effective in delaying or preventing substance abuse in young people.

While the previous studies had linked aggressive behavior in IED with psychiatric disorders, including anxiety or depression, this study did not report any such association. However, researchers agreed to the association between excessive drinking and worsening of aggressive behavior. They even emphasized that IED preceded the development of chronic substance abuse in 92.5 percent cases with both disorders.

Dr. Emil Coccaro, the Ellen C. Manning professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at University of Chicago Medical Center, stressed upon the need of early interventions including a combination of pharmacotherapy and cognitive therapy to prevent, or at least delay, the problems in adolescents. Most people do not consider aggression as a medical problem. They relate it to bad manners or simply bad behavior. They need to be better informed about the fact that there is a whole science behind IED and it’s not just about someone behaving badly. Researchers stressed upon changing the attitude toward aggressive behavior and making medical help available for the people suffering from it. The study has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Treatment of aggression disorder and substance abuse

A psychiatrist usually uses pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to control the problem in adolescence. The treatment for IED aims at remission, a potential solution to relieve symptoms to the point where only one or two symptoms of mild intensity persist. Patients with IED should avoid consumption of alcohol and other intoxicating substances to avoid chances of further deterioration of their health.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, the treatment modality may vary for different individuals. It is important to get an expert’s opinion for people showing frequent episodes of aggression or violent behavior and more importantly, for those who have developed addiction to some substance. If you know someone who embodies similar symptoms, you can contact the Florida Drug Addiction Helpline for more information about addiction treatment centers in Florida. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-982-2401 or chat online for more information on top rehab centers in Florida.