Addressing Anger and Substance Abuse

The relationship between anger and substance abuse is a lot like the relationship between fire and gasoline; one can quickly intensify the other, and together they form a highly dangerous combination. If you or someone in your household has a problem with anger, you’re probably already aware of the ways that this powerful emotion interacts with drugs or alcohol. Intensive professional treatment for anger and substance abuse can keep families together, preserve important relationships and help you avoid serious legal problems. Anger management and substance abuse treatment can also help prevent injuries, emotional damage, and tragic deaths.

How Substance Abuse Fuels Anger

Substance abuse and anger are related in different ways. Some alcoholics or addicts use chemical substances to control their emotions, so that they won’t feel the waves of rage that overpower them in response to traumatic memories, conflicts or stress. Others never express anger unless they’re drunk or high on stimulant drugs like cocaine or meth. When the drug takes over, their personality can change dramatically, like the fictional character Dr. Jekyll who turned into the monstrous Mr. Hyde.

A study published in Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research indicated that in drinkers who have anger as a personality trait, the consumption of alcohol increases the risk of aggression considerably. Social drinkers who participated in the study were able to use anger control methods to avoid aggression, except when alcohol was involved. Alcohol overcame their self-management techniques and triggered confrontational behavior.

Anger can be a devastating, overpowering emotion. When you feel a surge of rage coming on, you may experience a frightening loss of control. Alternatively, anger may give you a sense of power over others. Uncontrolled anger, especially when it’s fueled by a drug, can have these dangerous consequences:

  • Violence to children, spouses or partners
  • Accidental injuries such as falls or drowning
  • Altercations with strangers
  • Aggression and false accusations to friends, family members or relatives
  • Arrest, fines and imprisonment

Addressing Anger in Therapy

If you have a history of anger caused by past abuse, trauma or a mental health disorder, addressing your emotions will be a vital component of substance abuse treatment. As part of your treatment plan, you can explore the issues surrounding your anger using individual counseling, group therapy, anger management education and relapse prevention courses.

Group therapy, in particular, can be an effective way to learn how to manage emotions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association has identified some of the core purposes of an anger management group:

  • Drawing support and encouragement from others who have similar issues with anger and substance abuse
  • Learning how to handle anger when it arises and to avoid using anger as fuel for a relapse
  • Learning new techniques for controlling your thoughts and actions when you feel an angry episode coming on
  • Stopping a potentially dangerous situation before it ignites into violence

admissions-pageFor many alcoholics and addicts, staying clean and sober is the key to preventing uncontrollable outbursts of violence and aggression. But it’s important to understand the roots of your emotions in order to know how to cope when them when they arise. When applied in the right context and properly controlled, anger can be a healthy emotion. As you evolve in recovery, you’ll learn how to use anger in an appropriate way when the emotion is justified.

Feel free to call us with any questions you have about the type of treatment we offer here at Axis, and how we incorporate anger management into certain therapy models.