A research study conducted recently by members of the UT community has highlighted a link between domestic violence cases and abuse of alcohol and marijuana.

The study was conducted by Gregory Stuart, a political psychology professor at UT, Ryan Shorey, a political psychology doctoral student at UT, Todd Moore, an associate psychology professor at UT, and James McNulty, an associate professor of social psychology at Florida State University.

The study aimed to uncover correlations between substance abuse and its effects on aggression in both men and women. After noting that one of the first studies on dating violence was conducted in 1985, the researchers became curious about the evolution of the trend in college students and young adults.

"We know that college students that are dating experience a lot of physical and emotional violence when dating," Shorey said. "And we also know college students drink a lot. There are few studies that show whether or not alcohol increases violence within students.

"Dating violence is really prevalent, and this was one of the first attempts at seeing if alcohol would increase violence happenings."

After two years of recruiting research subjects, studies were conducted on 173 women and 63 men. Each participant took an online survey, received via email, for 90 days.

"They were asked if they saw their partner, whether violence happened if they did, if they drank alcohol that day and did violence occur, if so," Shorey said. "We asked how much they drank, how many beers or glasses of wine, specifically."

The results of the research study varied between women and men. Women were found two to three times more likely to exhibit physical and psychological aggression after drinking, both on days when they drank minimally or heavily (four or more drinks).

Women also tended to become psychologically abusive toward partners after smoking marijuana.

In contrast, the study determined that marijuana has little to no bearing on male aggression. With alcohol, however, the risk of sexual, physical and psychological violence by men to their partners increased.

"We might need more studies to define men," Shorey said. "No studies have shown that marijuana increases aggression, but it might affect women more. It kind of raises eyebrows a little bit."

While a small amount of research demonstrates a correlation between alcohol and aggression, the link between marijuana and aggression is even less defined.

"I think it is too early to make definitive conclusions regarding the role of marijuana and intimate partner violence perpetration, as the research in this area is quite young and, to date, studies have provided conflicting evidence regarding its role in increasing the odds for violence," Stuart said. "However, we now have numerous studies suggesting alcohol use does increase the odds for violence between partners."

Stuart has also researched the abuse of other drugs, such as cocaine and opiates. In women arrested for domestic violence, Stuart found cocaine increased the likelihood of violent behavior. His study reflected that opiates are unrelated to, or decrease, violent behavior.

Shorey said he hopes that such research studies will elucidate risks associated with drinking or smoking.

"Alcohol doesn't excuse the violence," Shorey said. "People make a choice to drink, and if people do that, they should know they're increasing violence risk. It's important for both students and the community to know that.

"Overall, the chances that someone is going to be aggressive will increase when they drink. If we know that, we might be able to prevent or reduce the risk of violence in relationships by drinking less or not at all."