Jeffrey Dahmer was a serial killer who tortured his male victims before he killed, and in some cases, ate them. You may be familiar with his crimes, but you may not be aware of how heavily they were influenced by his drinking. After all, you probably know many people who drink who aren’t cannibals and murderers! As relatively harmless as alcohol may seem, however, it can contribute to the dark side of human nature.

Was Jeffrey Dahmer Addicted to Alcohol?

In his teens, Dahmer was already a heavy drinker. Not only was he showing signs of mental illness as a young child (believing his genitals had been removed after a hernia operation when he was four years old), but he also likely drank to soothe his feelings about being homosexual. He showed up to high school classes drunk and kept booze in his locker. He killed his first victim after high school graduation when his parents left him alone that summer. Due to his drinking, he was only able to attend college for about three months. 

Afterward, Dahmer served as a medic with the US Army for a couple of years at his father’s insistence. In his second year, the Army believed that he needed a program to address his alcohol abuse. But it didn’t help him, and he was eventually discharged as being unsuitable for military duty due to his alcoholism. 

He wound up back home until his father kicked him out after drink-related shenanigans and sent him to live with his grandmother. His second murder victim killed nine years after the first, was done apparently in a blackout, as Dahmer claimed he didn’t remember killing the man. Alcoholic blackouts are often a sign of alcohol addiction. 

Was he addicted? Most likely, yes. Alcoholism ran in his mother’s family, and genetics play a huge part in addiction.  He was eventually diagnosed with alcohol dependence in addition to some mental health disorders.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any form of addiction or abuse, please call Sylvan Detox at (818) 308-3099.

The Role Alcohol Played in Jeffrey Dahmer’s Crimes

Very often Dahmer offered the men he invited to his home a drink to entice them to come with him. He met his victims in clubs and bars where there was plenty of liquor on offer. Drinking may have lowered their inhibitions, and he likely drank to numb his emotions about being gay.

At his trial, a psychiatrist said that Dahmer needed to drink before committing his crimes. He didn’t really want to kill the men, so he drank in order to get himself ready for murder as the means to an end. This eventually showed the court that he was sane while committing the crimes, and so he was sent to prison (where he was eventually murdered by another inmate) instead of to a mental institution. 

Alcohol Addiction and Violence

While for Jeffrey Dahmer alcohol was a way to deal with emotions that eventually led to gruesome violence, alcohol is implicated in crimes for people who aren’t serial killers as well. In 2016 90,000 people worldwide died as a result of alcohol-fueled domestic violence, and it’s involved in nearly one-third of murders. In fact, alcohol is linked to more violence than any other drug, and severe drunkenness is responsible for almost half of sexual assaults and other violent crimes

Why are alcohol and aggression so tightly connected? Researchers aren’t entirely sure, but they’ve come up with some theories that might explain the link.

  • Impairs thinking

Your brain just doesn’t work well under the influence of alcohol, especially heavy drinking. That’s why it’s so hard to solve problems or make good choices when you’re drinking. All this affects how you respond to any given situation. Instead of considering what someone says to you, for example, you might just assume they’re hostile and react with aggression.

  • Impairs inhibition

Because you’re not thinking straight, you’re also more susceptible to giving in to impulses and urges that you might suppress when you’re not drinking. Maybe when you’re sober you’d never act on your urge to take a swing at someone at the bar… but when you’re drinking at the bar, you might.

  • Narrows focus

Drinking prevents you from seeing the big picture, and instead, you just focus on one thing. Given that you’re more likely to act on urges and make bad decisions, it’s pretty common to focus on the wrong thing when you’re drunk.

  • Prevents consideration of consequences

People who don’t typically think about consequences, instead only thinking about what’s happening right now, tend to be more aggressive when they’re drunk. 

Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol Addiction

If you ( or a loved one) are suffering from alcohol addiction, it doesn’t mean that you’re a monster when you drink, like Jeffrey Dahmer and alcohol. Alcoholism is a disease, and the good news is that it can be treated. The longer you leave an alcohol use disorder untreated, the harder it is to recover. It can be done, but treating it earlier not only means the withdrawal symptoms won’t be so bad, but you’ll get back on your feet and back to the life you want and deserve that much sooner.

Being addicted to alcohol often includes both periods of intoxication (drunkenness) and withdrawal.

  1. Drunkenness

As you probably already know, the more you drink the drunker you get. Technically, as the levels of alcohol in your bloodstream get higher and higher, you’ll experience more and more bad effects from drinking. These can range from bad judgment, slurred speech, and blackouts to coma and death at very high levels of alcohol in your blood.

  1. Withdrawal

If you drink heavily and/or have been drinking for a while, you’re more likely to experience these symptoms anywhere from hours to days after your last drink. Symptoms range from shakiness, nausea and vomiting, and anxiety to hallucinations and seizures at the severe end of the scale.

Here are some signs to look for if you’re concerned about an alcohol addiction for you or a loved one. They can be mild, moderate, or severe in nature. 

  • Can’t limit how much you drink

One beer is too many, but a thousand isn’t enough. In other words, once you start drinking, you can’t stop.

  • Want to cut down, but can’t

People without alcohol use disorders simply decide they don’t want to drink as much, and then they reduce their alcohol intake. If you’re addicted to alcohol, it isn’t that simple.

  • Have cravings

If you think about drinking and crave alcohol, you’re not a casual drinker.

  • Spend most of your time buying/drinking/recovering from alcohol
  • Spend more time on liquor than on activities you like or with friends and family
  • Missing work or school; failing to turn in assignments on time

If you’re late a lot because you’re hung over or if you can’t meet deadlines because of your drinking, you have a problem.

  • Driving while drinking or drunk
  • Need more alcohol to get the same effects you had before

When this happens, it’s because you’ve built up a tolerance to alcohol. And that means you’re drinking too much.

  • Having withdrawal symptoms, or drinking to avoid those symptoms

If you get the shakes when you’re not drinking, or you dread them so much you’d rather drink, you have a problem.

How Sylvan Detox Can Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol use disorder, it’s time to get help. Our facility is safe and secure, with 24/7 security and onsite staff. We offer medically supervised detox if necessary so you can get through withdrawals safely and comfortably. Our luxurious facility offers alternative therapies such as yoga, saltwater therapy, massage, and trauma-informed therapy in addition to traditional modalities such as dialectical and cognitive behavior therapy, relapse prevention, and other individual and group treatments.

Our levels of care include detox and residential rehab. Once you’re ready for an outpatient program, we can refer you to a highly recommended facility in our network that offers partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs, and telehealth or virtual care as needed. Get started on living sober and enjoying your life free of alcohol abuse today – you deserve it.