The Link Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

Addiction and substance abuse share a connection wtih domestic violence, with the effects felt globally. And the occurrence of domestic violence is only increasing, especially as the world enters mandatory lockdowns due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

Domestic violence and addiction exist in a never-ending loop of using, inflicting abuse, and then using again. The relationship between the two is substantial and terrifying for any victim stuck within this vicious cycle.

Couple In An Argument

A Brief Look at Domestic Violence

Domestic violence comes in many forms.  It can be difficult for a victim to spot right away, especially early on in a relationship. Commonly referred to as intimate partner violence, domestic violence involves the epitome of an unhealthy relationship where one or both people are mentally, emotionally, or physically abusive.

Domestic violence behaviors show themselves in various ways, including a lack of respect, empathy, and power imbalances. Domestic violence is so prevalent that it is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States.

With that said, victims are not exclusively women. Men, children, elders, and animals can all fall victim to domestic violence. When a substance addiction becomes part of the equation, whether it be drugs or alcohol, the frequency of abuse tends to skyrocket.

Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Previous studies have determined that 61% of domestic violence offenders are also substance abusers. In the same study, it came to light that over 50% of cases involving spousal murder involved drug use or alcohol abuse on the day of the crime.

Ninety two percent of domestic violence offenders are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense. In more than half of the cases under review in this study by the United States Department of Justice, the offender used drugs or alcohol every day for the previous month before the abuse took place.

From these studies alone, the link between drug addiction and domestic violence is clear. From a well-documented perspective, we can see that consistent substance abuse not only leads to more severe cases of domestic violence but is a significant risk factor of experiencing partner violence.

man with pill bottle

Drug Use and a Higher Risk of Abuse

Statistical evidence reveals that drug abuse results in a much higher chance of domestic abuse, primarily when used on the day of the assault. Substance abuse can make it difficult for victims to recognize the warning signs of impending violence.

Many domestic violence victims that are living with a drug addiction themselves attempt to leave an abusive relationship, ultimately resulting in their death. Drug abuse can be a factor on both sides of the coupling when it comes to domestic violence.

It’s important to note that domestic violence victims, whether they be sober or actively using, are very likely to develop unhealthy behavior patterns. This behavior can fuel many forms of substance abuse, whether the victim is an addict or not.

Other than drinking and using drugs, emotional and mental health are affected in the following ways:

• Development of anxiety and depression

• Experiencing suicidal thoughts

• Disrupted sleep patterns or insomnia

• Deficient levels of self-esteem

• Substantial weight gain or loss

• Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The Contributions Addiction Makes to Domestic Abuse

Addiction has its place in the world of domestic abuse. Drugs, from opioids to alcohol, mentally alter the state of the brain. Illicit substances, and legal ones as well, weaken self-control and cause many people to act in a way that they wouldn’t if they were sober.

Since substance abuse and violent behavior go hand-in-hand, more than 75% of people seeking addiction treatment have committed a violent act. Of course, different drugs cause people to react in different ways.

For example, meth and cocaine are stimulants and can bring out violent behavior in those that use them, even if they aren’t violent otherwise. Paranoia and loss of impulse control are significant contributors to domestic abuse occurrences.

Alcohol is to blame in many domestic violence cases, as it can change the prefrontal-cortex of the brain, causing alcohol-related aggression. If an abuser is a chronic drinker, it’s likely difficult for them to shake violent drives, as they are consistently changing their bodies’ chemical makeup.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Addiction and substance abuse hold substantial responsibility in a majority of intimate partner violence instances and disputes. The cycle can be hard to break, but not impossible.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Help is available to break the sequence of abuse and treat your addiction.

You are not alone, even in the darkest of times, you are never alone. If you’re struggling with addiction or if you’re a victim of domestic abuse, please reach out today.

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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