Connecting Substance Use and Domestic Violence

October 26, 2022

When it comes to mental health, it is not uncommon to see a mental health disorder manifest in conjunction with an experience of trauma. Addictions also seem to manifest when one struggles with either trauma or a mental health disorder. An example of one such connection is the link between domestic violence and substance abuse and the effects each has on the other. 

Understanding domestic violence and substance use disorder 

Substance abuse and domestic violence are often linked in a variety of ways, including victims turning to substance use and the addiction of the perpetrator influencing their violent acts. While there’s no guarantee that one will cause the other, patterns in research have emerged showing a definite connection between the two. 

Domestic violence

Firstly, domestic violence is defined as “a pattern of coercive behavior, including acts or threatened acts, that are used by the perpetrator to gain power and control over a current or former spouse, intimate partner, dating partner or person with whom the perpetrator shares a child or household in common.” 

Acts of domestic violence include: 

  • Controlling the victim by telling them where they can and cannot go, how they may dress, who they see and what they do
  • Insulting and shaming
  • Threatening and intimidating to keep the victim within the limits the perpetrator sees fit 
  • Pressuring the victim to do things against their will 
  • Economically controlling the victim
  • Stalking
  • Preventing the victim from seeing or contacting their friends or family members 

Domestic violence is not always the cause of physical harm to the victim; the victim may be subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. Often, the perpetrator will use whatever form of abuse is most effective in maintaining control. 

Substance use disorder 

Substance abuse is “a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine.” Substance abuse, or substance use disorder, is an addiction to alcohol and drugs, such as heroin, opioids and prescription medications that the user is unable to stop even when there are negative consequences.

There are a number of potential causes of substance abuse, including using it as an unhealthy coping mechanism to help one handle the stress and anxiety one is feeling in their life. This can be dangerous, however — by using drugs or alcohol to help one cope, they end up creating an entirely new problem in the form of a potentially life-threatening addiction.  

The connection between domestic violence and substance abuse

It goes without saying that substance abuse and domestic violence are connected, and numerous research projects have shown the various ways the two affect each other. 

Firstly, it’s important to note that not everyone who struggles with substance use disorder will be involved in domestic violence, either as the perpetrator or victim, and not everyone involved in a domestic violence situation will suffer from substance abuse. Each individual is different, so assumptions cannot be made in that regard. 

That being said, numerous people who have suffered domestic violence also struggle with substance abuse. One source stated that many survivors of domestic violence use substances as a form of coping or self-medication to deal with the effects of the trauma; additionally, those who seek treatment are often sabotaged in their efforts towards recovery by the perpetrator. 

Additional studies include many other statistics further proving the connection between the two, including: 

Because of the traumatic nature of domestic violence and the way in which substance abuse warps the brain, it’s no surprise that the two often occur simultaneously. 

Treating the effects of domestic violence and substance abuse 

Many individuals who suffer from addiction, domestic violence or both require intensive mental and physical health treatment. The effects of domestic violence and addiction are long lasting and can take time and well developed plans to get back to full health and wellness. Oftentimes, those who’ve suffered benefit from seeking out professional addiction treatment and trauma-informed counseling. 

If you or someone you know has been a victim of domestic violence, suffers from addiction or both, consider October Road’s treatment plans. With trauma-informed care, addiction recovery programs and professionally trained staff, you will be able to begin walking the path to recovery. 

To learn more, call our offices at 888-201-5086.