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Migration and Home Affairs
Expert opinion

Substance use and violent extremism, November 2021


Publication date
22 November 2021
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
RAN Publications Topic
Mental health issues


Alcohol and drugs have historically been linked to human violent behaviour. And despite the fact that many politically and religiously motivated extremist ideologies and groups promote purity of body and mind as an ideal, drug use and mind-altering substances have been widely reported in violent Islamist extremist (VIE) and violent right-wing extremist (VRWE) contexts.

While this phenomenon has been discussed before, its implications for preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) have not been assessed in depth, to date. Although clinical research on the topic of substance use and misuse and radicalisation remains sparse, practitioners will benefit from a consolidated overview of existing research, best practice case studies and theory to inform their decision-making and programme design.

According to the RAN Extremism, Radicalisation & Mental Health: Handbook for Practitioners, substance use and misuse may play a role in creating vulnerability and triggering pathways to extremism, it may sustain this vulnerability, and it may lower behavioural and mental thresholds for committing violent acts.

The objective of this paper is therefore to examine the ways in which drugs and alcohol form part of the wider social practices of different extremist groups and phenomena. The paper considers how drugs can be utilised for recruitment or radicalisation purposes, and specifically, how drugs are used to lower the threshold for committing extremist violence and/or terrorism.

Substance use and violent extremism Cover


22 NOVEMBER 2021
Substance use and violent extremism
(436.31 KB - PDF)