You’re more likely to get into fights when you’re drunk
People who are drunk are more likely to fall victim to unprovoked violence than those who are sober, maybe because you aren’t as good at keeping an eye on things when you’re drunk. If you were sober, you might avoid eye contact or take a different route if you encounter someone who wants to fight. When you’re drunk, your protective mechanisms may not work as well as they normally do.
One of the major facts for success in our work with alcohol-related violence has involved interventions with young people who’ve got hold of alcohol illegally. Police seizures of alcohol have been shown to have a clear impact on the number of violent crimes in the areas studied.
Peter Ågren, Södermalm District Police Commissioner, Stockholm
It’s usually boys
Boys are more commonly involved in violence than girls, with 11 per cent of boys and 4 per cent of girls in year 2 of upper secondary school who drink alcohol saying that they have ended up in a fight when they’ve been drinking.
Most fights where alcohol is involved happen in town
Most fights involve two young males of more or less the same age. The reason for the fight is often trivial – supporting a different football team or accidentally barging into someone. Much of the violence takes place in public spaces, such as in and around food outlets that are open late at night or on public transport. It’s also common in the sort of places where a lot of young people gather – at parties, in parks, or during festivals. Talk to your teenager about this and tell them the sad facts of life. It can be useful for your son or daughter to know the truth to ensure they don’t expose themselves to unnecessary risks.
All your emotions come to the surface when you're drunk and you tell people what you really think. And then some people get mad and you end up with a fight.
Paulina, aged 15, Örebro
Staying sober reduces the risk
Not drinking alcohol is a good way of avoiding fights. Alcohol not only lowers your awareness of what’s happening around you, it reduces your ability to interpret a situation, making it harder to spot that someone is getting upset or is spoiling for a fight. Most people also feel bigger and tougher when they’re drunk, and they say things they wouldn’t otherwise have said. Equally, it’s easier to get mad and take offence when you’re drunk. But even if it’s usually drunken teenagers who end up in trouble, being sober doesn’t mean you’re risk-free – it is often, sad to say, about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You might like to suggest to your teenager that they should avoid hanging out in places where violence might be more likely to flare up. Think about the time of day, too – the majority of cases of assault occur in public spaces at night (between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.), when one of the people involved is under the influence of alcohol.