Vol. 6, No. 4, 2000 Page 5

Case study: the' self-medicating' criminal?

More evidence that some drinkers are "self-medicating" neurological dysfunction comes from a case study by D. G. Amen.

Amen's patient, a 20-year-old man, frequently became violent after drinking alcohol. On one occasion, he committed an armed robbery while "under the influence."

Amen performed two SPECT studies on the man: one while he was sober, and one after he drank the same amount of alcohol as he had consumed on the night he committed the robbery.

"The 'alcohol free' study," Amen reports, "revealed marked hyperactivity in the cingulate gyrus, right and left lateral frontal lobes, right and left lateral parietal lobes, and the right lateral temporal lobe." In contrast, the sca an taken after the man ingested alcohol showed a reduction of abnormal hyperactivity in these brain areas, with only the anterior cingulate gyrus still showing excess activity. However, during this scan, the left and right prefrontal cortex and left and r right temporal lobes showed signs of reduced blood flow, an indication of decreased function. Reduced function in these areas can impair impulse control and judgment, and increase the likelihood of aggression.

Amen concludes, "This man may have been 'self-medicating' an overactive brain, but in the process induced a state that increased the likelihood for aggressive behavior."


"Regional cerebral blood flow in alcohol-induced violence: a case study," D. G. Amen, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 31, No. 4, October-December 1999, pp. 389-393. Address: D. G. Amen, Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine, 350 Chadbourne Road, Fairfield, CA 94585.

Return to:
[Author Directory] [Front Page] [Issue Index] [Subject Index] [Title Index]