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Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV) or dating violence, is a serious, preventable public health issue that affects millions of people in the US, writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When substance abuse is involved, matters become even more complicated for both batterers and domestic violence victims.

Data show that some people who engage in partner abuse also abuse alcohol and drugs; statistics also show that people who abuse substances are susceptible to becoming a victim of spousal abuse, which could lead to the abuse of substances just to cope with the trauma of these experiences.

The US Department of Justice defines domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” This can involve abuse in any form, including:

  • Physical abuse (hitting, slapping, kicking, beating)
  • Sexual abuse (forced or unwanted sexual activity; sexual violence)
  • Psychological abuse, emotional abuse (name-calling, criticizing, ignoring or excluding, belittling, insulting, intimidation, humiliation)
  • Financial abuse (withholding money or other resources from another to block a person’s monetary independence)

Stalking or harassing someone, isolating them, and threatening them or destroying their property, including personal mementos or possessions, are forms of abuse as well. LoveIsRespect.org also lists digital dating abuse as a form of mistreatment, defining it as “the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online.” Violence in the home can happen between not only romantic partners but parents and children, and even between siblings.

Research on the topic of domestic violence and substance abuse clearly shows that alcohol and drug use only worsens the effects of domestic violence.


domestic violence and substance abuse

Researchers have long explored the relationship between domestic violence and substance abuse. Studies show there are a variety of reasons why the two are connected.

The presence of an underlying mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is one reason substance abuse and violence often occur together. Family financial pressures and relationship issues are other reasons the two are connected.

It is important to note that while substance use can be a catalyst for abusive relationships, it is not the cause of them. One reason it cannot be determined that alcohol and drugs actually cause partner violence is the theory that abusers hold certain beliefs that promote violent behavior.

Some researchers say domestic violence is a learned social behavior that is not directly tied to alcohol and drug use. There is also the opinion that the substance abuse itself is a symptom of an abusive relationship, not the cause. It is therefore believed that sobriety will not stop someone from being abusive.

Still, research is solid that substance abuse problems complicate relationships for everyone involved, even children and other relatives. Below are few scenarios that illustrate how substance abuse and domestic violence are linked.

According to the World Health Organization, evidence suggests that alcohol consumption, particularly at harmful and dangerous levels, increases the occurrence and severity of domestic violence. Reasons for this include alcohol affecting a person’s cognitive and physical function. When people are under the influence of alcohol (or other mind-altering, mood-altering substances), self-control might be compromised or reduced, which could mean the people involved will be less capable of pursuing a non-violent conflict resolution.

In many IPV cases, the perpetrator of the violence is usually drinking and/or using drugs. The perpetrator may also use substances to disable their victims and make it harder for the person to defend themselves or seek help.

Drug and alcohol use can change users’ moods and affect how others’ behaviors and motives are interpreted. Such use also can embolden a person to think or feel they have leeway to exercise greater power or domination, whether physical or emotional, over others. Some perpetrators justify the violent behavior they exhibit after using substances when they perceive their actions have been viewed negatively. They also purposely numb themselves to avoid feeling responsible or any kind of emotion toward their behavior.

Domestic violence has been shown to increase the probability that victims will use alcohol and illicit and/or prescription drugs to cope with the abusive relationship. As substances are used to numb the physical pain of their injuries and the emotional and psychological scarring they endure, victims not only compromise their safety, but they also risk developing addictions that might be hard to break as they try to self-medicate to deal with traumas.


signs of domestic violence

There are common warning signs in cases involving substance abuse and domestic violence. In many situations, noticeable changes in a partner’s behavior is one major sign. Among those changes are:

  • Increasing the use of drugs and/or alcohol use
  • Experimenting with new drugs
  • Using substances at unusual times of day
  • Using substances to cope with problems
  • Using substances while on the job or going to work high
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Run-ins with others at home, on the job, or with law enforcement

If any of these signs are observed, seek help right away. Call Drug Treatment Center Finder at (855) 619-8070 today to speak with a specialist who can help you find the right program for you or your loved one.


treatment for domestic violence victims

In addition to female domestic violence victims who willingly use substances, such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and painkillers, to cope with abusive relationships, some women in abusive relationships report being coerced into using drugs and alcohol by their partners. This may include forcing victims to drink or do drugs as a form of punishment or inviting them to partake in drug and alcohol use as a form of bonding or as a promise that the abuse will cease.

Drug Addiction Treatment for Women in Abusive Relationships

Women and men go about developing their addictions differently, so education programs that address women’s health and well being should be paramount for females in violent relationships who want to seek drug treatment for alcohol and drug use. Intensive inpatient programs and outpatient programs are among the options available for treating addiction.

Women in violent relationships should look for the following when seeking help:

  • Gender-specific treatment programs that address women’s unique needs.
  • Treatment programs that offer therapies for trauma, e.g. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), psychodrama therapy, group counseling, and family therapy
  • Treatment programs that teach domestic abuse victims how to live without addiction, abusive relationships
  • Self-help meetings that offer support in recovery, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous, or alumni groups.

In addition to receiving treatment specifically tailored to women, it is also recommended that female victims follow a relapse prevention plan that addresses the need to get to safety if they find themselves in violent situations again. A supportive network of sober people can aid domestic violence victims’ recovery and encourage their need to get to a safe place, particularly for those women who have a partner who abuses substances.


LGBTQ+ Relationships and Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence also occurs in LGBTQ+ relationships. While the model of male aggressor and female victim-survivor does not apply to same-sex relationships, the pattern of abuse that involves physical, emotional, and psychological mistreatment is the same for both groups. Also, mental health disorders may be present in abusers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.

Data show there are high rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the LGBTQ+ community, which means there are risks of developing a substance abuse disorder or addiction. As previously mentioned, there is a strong association between relationship violence and substance abuse.

Signs of intimate partner abuse in LGBTQ+ relationships may involve:

  • Threats to disclose a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity to others who may not know, including the person’s employer, which could result in rejection and isolation from friends, family, society
  • Humiliating someone over their sexual past or personally sensitive information to keep them from leaving
  • Telling the victim that no one will believe they are being abused or help because of the person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity

According to a report titled, “Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Abuse Among LGBT People,” by the Williams Institute, research shows people in the LGBTQ+ community face barriers to seeking help in domestic violence cases that are unique to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In many cases, the myths and stereotypical beliefs about what intimate partner abuse looks like keeps people from either seeking help or receiving it from law enforcement, social services providers and others.

Those who do get help often rely on informal, personal social networks for help in IPV cases and sexual abuse, the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey reports.

Drug treatment for LGBTQ+ clients includes intensive inpatient and outpatient programs, which are among the options available for treating addiction.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community who are involved in relationship violence should consider drug and alcohol addiction treatment at facilities that:

  • Are unbiased, knowledgeable and sensitive to the needs and concerns of the LGBTQ+ community
  • Offer programs that can help LGBTQ+ clients face personal issues such as the possibility of rejection, homophobia, discrimination, depression, coming out to family members and friends
  • Offer access to trusted health care professionals who understand the mental and emotional needs of people who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community
  • Make clients’ safety and privacy a priority
  • Can refer clients to services that can help community members accept their sexual orientation or gender identity

addiction treatment

Treating drug addiction is more than just about quitting drugs and alcohol. When people develop a drug dependence, they’re subject to experiencing addiction withdrawal when they abruptly stop taking drugs, which can be a painful experience that may have hazardous effects on their health.

To learn more about specific drug withdrawal symptoms, read our withdrawal pages. Drug Treatment Center Finder recommends entering a drug addiction treatment center, where you will be medically supervised by trained professionals.

If you and your partner are involved in an abusive relationship and are both battling substance dependence or addiction, you may want to consider getting help together, if possible, to boost chances that the abuse will stop. It is important to treat chemical dependencies as well as the issue of the abuse to get to the root of its cause.

Call our 24-hour helpline at (855) 619-8070 to discuss your treatment options with one of our agents and get the substance abuse treatment that’s right for you.