Two recent incidents involved drinking and fighting in our local towns and resulted in legal charges and hospital visits for some of the participants.
On Sunday night, two Salem brothers were apparently under the influence and on their way home in a cab when an argument broke out between the two. Mark Valenzi of Orne St. is now facing charges including aggravated assault and battery for beating his brother and leaving him lying on the pavement bleeding from face and head wounds. A dangerousness hearing has been scheduled for Oct 6 and Mr. Valenzi will remain in custody at least until then.
A few nights before, in the neighboring town of Beverly, Friday night’s event involved a lot more people. 200-300 people were said to be involved in an alcohol fueled melee outside the Pickled Onion Pub on Rantoul St. Police responded around 1 AM to a report of a fight outside the bar and needed to call the entire police force night shift into the area to quell the disturbance. Many Endicott College students were reported to be involved in the action. One reported being hit in the head with a bottle, another reported being kicked in the face and a third was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after interfering with responding police officers.
So, what is the connection between alcohol and fighting? Most people experience feelings of relaxation when they drink and aggressive behavior is far from their consideration. However, alcohol compromises specific parts of our central nervous system that increases the propensity for aggressive behavior.
Alcohol reduces our ability to think straight, says Professor McMurran, a psychologist at the University of Nottingham. It narrows our focus of attention and gives us tunnel vision.
If someone provokes us while we’re drunk, we don’t take other factors into account, such as the consequences of rising to the bait. This can lead to violent reactions from people who would usually shrug things off.
Alcohol also reduces anxiety, which can be one of the reasons we enjoy drinking. But, according to Professor McMurran, anxiety actually protects us by telling us to avoid or escape certain situations. “When we’re drunk, this warning system doesn’t work and this can put us in dangerous or confrontational situations.”
Alarmingly, over half of all murders occur under the influence of alcohol. Some high estimates go as far as to suggest eighty-percent of murderers were intoxicated at the time of attack. Equally troubling, as much as two-thirds of domestic violence occurs when the abusive partner is drunk. A drinker may be more likely to perceive innocent actions as threatening or exaggerate the severity of a mild insult, leading to a heightened aggressive response.
Other studies point out our lessened ability to respond to social cues when inebriated, compromising our ability to de-escalate a situation. And alcohol affects the part of our brain that controls inhibitions. This makes it much easier for us to switch quickly into fight mode than we normally would if not drinking.
In addition, drinking and fighting is glamorized in some parts of our culture. A popular You Tube video. “Drink and Fight” Atttributed to the Dropkick Murphys, Buck O Nine or Floggin Molly glorifies drinking and fighting. One commentater states that the actual title to the song is “Irish Drinking Song”.
However, even though you may feel more brave and aggressive, your balance, eye-hand coordination and judgment are all impaired and make it difficult for you to engage in any physical activity. Better to go home and sleep it off and avoid the visit to the emergency room or local lock-up.