Alcohol consumption and dependence, employment status, social and family history and history of previous violence in 49 patients injured in city-centre violence were compared with that in 49 paired, age and sex matched control individuals in a major accident and emergency department. All control individuals had been in the same locations as the patients at the time of injury. Alcohol consumption was recorded in units and dependence was assessed by means of the CAGE questionnaire. Patients had consumed significantly more alcohol in the 6 h before injury (mean consumption: 9 units/controls 7.1 units) and had been involved in more previous violence (mean number of incidents in previous 5 years: 4.3/controls: 1.5 incidents). In comparison with controls, male patients tended to be single rather than married (P = 0.051), to have lost a parent (P = 0.058) and to feel guilty about their alcohol consumption (P = 0.068). These results indicate that in relation to young adults, injury in urban violence was associated with excessive binge-alcohol consumption, but not with alcohol dependence, unemployment at the time of violence or socio-economic group.