Domestic Violence & Addiction: Is There A Connection?
Although addiction does not cause domestic violence, it can contribute to it. Also, many victims of domestic violence develop addiction after using drugs to self-medicate issues like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Anyone affected by domestic violence and addiction should seek help at an addiction treatment program.
Every year, about 10 million U.S. residents experience domestic violence. Since many cases go unreported, the actual rate is likely even higher.
Many perpetrators and victims of domestic violence struggle with substance misuse and drug addiction (also called substance use disorder). Ohio residents affected by domestic violence and addiction should seek professional help.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence refers to any form of abuse that occurs between family members.
Some of the most common forms of domestic violence include intimate partner violence, which occurs between romantic partners, child abuse, which occurs between a parent and a child, and elder abuse, which occurs between an older person and their relative.
In all forms of domestic violence, the abuser uses emotional, physical, or sexual force to control the victim. Behaviors commonly associated with domestic violence include:
- intimidating or threatening the victim
- shaming or embarrassing the victim
- forcing the victim to do things against their will
- disregarding the victim’s privacy
- trying to control the victim’s behaviors, such as how they dress or what they eat
- trying to prevent the victim from seeing their family or friends
- destroying the victim’s possessions
- taking the victim’s money
Victim Health Issues
Victims often develop health issues, such as physical injuries, chronic anxiety, and depression. Some also experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental health condition can cause nightmares, flashbacks, memory problems, and other distressing symptoms.
The Connection Between Domestic Violence & Addiction
Many families affected by domestic violence are also affected by drug addiction. Drug addiction is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. It typically starts with substance misuse.
Substance misuse occurs when you use a drug in a way that harms your health.
For instance, you might drink too much alcohol, use illegal drugs like heroin or meth, or use prescription drugs (such as prescription opioids or ADHD medications) in a manner not prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Depending on the situation, addiction may impact the abuser, victim, or both.
Addiction In Abusers
According to the Supreme Court of Ohio, most people who misuse substances don’t commit domestic violence.
Also, most people who commit domestic violence don’t misuse substances. Of those who do, many keep committing violence even after they have stopped misusing substances. In other words, substance misuse and addiction do not cause domestic violence.
However, substance misuse can be a risk factor for more severe forms of domestic violence. That’s because certain substances make you more likely to become violent.
Alcohol & Interpersonal Violence
Excessive alcohol use increases the risk of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, homicide, and other types of violence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol contributes to about 90,000 deaths caused by interpersonal violence per year. This is because alcohol lowers your inhibitions and impairs your judgment. It can also make you more irritable and aggressive.
Stimulant Drugs & The Risk Of Violence
Stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine can also increase the risk of violence.
These drugs speed up your central nervous system, which can cause intense anxiety and paranoia. Paranoia means you feel irrationally suspicious of others.
For instance, a person might think their loved one is trying to harm them, even with no real evidence. They may then respond with violence.
Do Drugs Or Alcohol Cause Domestic Violence?
Although drugs can increase the risk of domestic violence, they don’t cause it.
That means any abuser who misuses substances must seek treatment for both addiction and violent tendencies. If they only get treatment for addiction, the violence will likely continue.
Effective treatments for violent tendencies include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you identify and change unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that contribute to violence tendencies
- dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which can help you develop skills to manage stress and navigate relationships in a healthy manner
- psychodynamic therapy, which can help you identify and manage difficult feelings that may contribute to violent tendencies, such as shame, low self-esteem, and fear of abandonment
Addiction In Victims
Many victims of domestic violence develop mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Some of them try to self-medicate these issues with drugs. While this behavior may temporarily make victims feel better, it can quickly lead to addiction.
Also, some victims develop addiction after misusing medications prescribed for anxiety, physical pain, or other issues associated with domestic violence.
For example, they might use the medication more often than prescribed, use higher doses than prescribed, or mix it with alcohol or other drugs.
Pressure From Abuser
In addition, some victims become addicted to drugs after being pressured or forced to misuse them by their abuser. Domestic violence can also worsen addiction symptoms in victims who already struggled with substance misuse before the violence began.
No matter the cause, addiction can put victims in even greater danger than they’re already in. That’s because they may have a harder time defending themselves or calling for help when under the influence.
When seeking addiction treatment, domestic violence victims should look for programs that offer trauma-informed care.
This type of care addresses the psychological and physical effects of trauma, which many domestic violence victims experience while recovering from addiction. Effective treatments for violence-related trauma include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you change unhelpful beliefs and behaviors caused by the trauma
- cognitive processing therapy (CPT), which can help you process your trauma in a healthy manner so you experience fewer trauma-related symptoms
- eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), which can help you reprocess your trauma using directed eye movements
Other services that benefit domestic violence victims include support groups, legal support, and assistance with housing, education, or employment.
Resources For Domestic Violence Victims
If you are experiencing domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), texting “Start” to 88788, or using this online chat.
You will reach a live advocate who provides free, confidential support. They can help you make a personalized safety plan and connect you with resources and treatment providers in your area.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Addiction Treatment Options
If you or someone you love is affected by domestic violence and substance misuse, seek help at an addiction treatment program. These programs offer a variety of treatment services, including:
- medical detox, in which doctors help you manage withdrawal symptoms as you stop using drugs
- mental health counseling, in which a therapist helps you manage drug cravings and any other mental health concerns you experience
- medication-assisted treatment, in which doctors prescribe medications to ease cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and opioid addiction
- support groups, in which you can discuss your experiences with other people in recovery
To learn more about addiction treatment, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our inpatient treatment programs offer personalized, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one stay drug-free.
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment — Chapter 1—Effects of Domestic Violence on Substance Abuse Treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64441/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Alcohol Use and Your Health https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
- International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction — Violent behaviors associated with cocaine use: possible pharmacological mechanisms https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1683859/
- Journal of Drug Issues — Methamphetamine Use and Violent Behavior: User Perceptions and Predictors https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4651438/
- National Library of Medicine: StatPearls — Domestic Violence https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499891/
- Supreme Court of Ohio — Fact Sheet: Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/docs/JCS/domesticViolence/topics/DVCourts/DVSubstanceAbuse.pdf
- World Health Organization — Global status report on alcohol and health 2018 https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565639