substance abuse and domestic violence

While substance abuse is not the sole cause of domestic violence, there is a correlation between them. This is because substance abuse can be a cause domestic violence — and it can also be an effect of it. If you are a victim of domestic violence and have abused substances as a means to deal with it, the best way out of the situation is for you to seek help. Safety needs to be your primary concern, both in terms of being safe from the batterer and the drugs.

Key Statistics About Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

One of the most saddening statistics regarding domestic violence is that every 15 seconds, a woman is beaten in the United States.

female abuse stats

Other statistics that depict the link between substance abuse and domestic violence include:

  • Out of these women where physical violence was imposed on them, 33 percent of them had alcohol and drug problems as opposed to the 16 percent of women who were not victims of any violence, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.
  • Out of all victims in a domestic violence program, 36 percent had substance abuse challenges.
  • Research shows that if you abuse drugs and alcohol, the chances of you becoming a victim of domestic violence is higher.
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence, you’re at a greater risk of receiving prescriptions for stimulants, sedatives, tranquilizers and painkillers. Furthermore, you are more likely to become dependent on them and alcohol.
  • Up to one half of men who carry out domestic abuse against women also have challenges with substance abuse.
  • Substance abuse precedes 47 percent of domestic violence acts.
  • Around 92 percent of men who performed violent acts against their female partner had used drugs or alcohol that same day.

Research is still being conducted on substance abuse and intimate partner violence and the impact that each has on the other.

Domestic Violence — What It Is

Domestic violence is where one partner displays a pattern of abusive behavior against another intimate partner in order to gain or maintain control and power in the relationship. In most instances, the abusing partner is exerting control through fear, intimidation, threats of violence, or verbal abuse.

If you are a victim of this domestic abuse, you may eventually lose your network of social support and become isolated from your family, friends and neighbors. Over time, your abusing partner may use more severe methods to keep control, which can and often does lead to severe injury, hospitalization or even death.

Types of Domestic Violence Abuse

When you think of domestic abuse against women (or men), you might automatically assume the abuser is physically hurting the victim. However, physical abuse is just one type of domestic abuse. There are many forms of abuse, which include:

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse is recognized the most and is where physical force is used against you causing you injury.

physical abuse

Some examples of this form of abuse include:

  • Kicking
  • Pushing
  • Slapping
  • Punching
  • Choking
  • Shaking
  • Restraining
  • Biting
  • Throwing
  • Pinching
  • Breaking bones
  • Burning
  • Assault with a weapon like a gun or knife
  • Murder

Keep in mind that your injury doesn’t have to be severe for it still to be physical abuse. For instance, if your abuser slaps you a couple times, and you only get slight bruising that doesn’t require you to go to the hospital, it is still considered domestic violence.

Emotional Abuse

This type of abuse destructs your self-worth through persistent criticism, insult and humiliation. You may not even recognize that it is emotional abuse, since it may appear as a normal occurrence in an unhealthy relationship.

In most states, you as the victim can’t bring on domestic violence action on emotional abuse alone unless it’s so significant and persistent the relationship can be classified as bullying. Typically, evidence of this type of abuse is combined with another such as sexual or physical in order to file a domestic violence action suit. There are of course exceptions and every case of emotional abuse is different.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is common in domestic violence cases. A recent study found that two-thirds of the women who were physically assaulted by an intimate partner were also sexually assaulted. Not only does it include rape and sexual assault, but other types of harassment, like unwelcome touching and behaviors, that are demeaning.

sexual assualt

Some sexual abuse examples include:

  • Forced sex following a physical beating
  • Acquaintance rape
  • Marital rape
  • Fondling
  • Forced prostitution
  • Attacks on your body’s sexual parts
  • Sex with others
  • Sodomy

This form of abuse is commonly linked to physical abuse as it often follows a bout of physical abuse or occurs together with it.


In this form of abuse, perpetrator stalks you through physical means, email or the Internet. Cyberstalking is personal, deliberate and persistent. This is not the same as using unsolicited email spam. With cyberstalking, it’s more personal, where the cyberstalker carefully finds you and contacts you. They may send you inappropriate and disturbing messages, and the more you respond or protest, the more the cyberstalker feels rewarded. Therefore, your best response to cyberstalking is to not respond to them at all.


With economic abuse, you are made to be financially dependent on your abusing partner and they control your economic resources.

Examples of economic abuse include:

  • Your economic resources like credit cards or money are withheld
  • Your partner steals defrauds you of assets or money
  • Your resources are exploited for their personal gain
  • Physical resources like clothes, food, shelter or necessary medications are withheld from you
  • You are not allowed to work or choose an occupation

This is not as obvious as the other forms of domestic abuse. You are left totally dependent on your partner’s money with no access to your own, which can leave you at his mercy.

Spiritual Abuse

This form of abuse keeps you from feeling good about yourself or doing something for yourself. Your partner doesn’t allow you to uphold your religious beliefs, morals or values. You have to give up things that you find important to your inner being.

spiritual abuse

When you are a victim of domestic abuse or violence, it can make you feel helpless and create feelings of self-doubt, therefore, it’s essential you know the various signs of abuse to recognize you are in this type of situation and seek help.

Common Characteristics in Domestic Violence Cases

You can’t always tell early on in a relationship if your partner will become abusive. Domestic abusers get more violent over time. They tend to start off wonderful in the beginning, but then become more controlling and aggressive gradually as your relationship moves forward.

You might initially downplay or dismiss certain behaviors of abuse like threats, distrust, name-calling or possessiveness. Your abusing partner might apologize to you profusely for how they behaved and convince you that they do these things out of love. But, despite their apologies, control and violence intensify with time.

Your partner may have abusive tendencies if he:

  • Accuses you of cheating
  • Tells you that you can’t ever do anything right
  • Becomes jealous when you spend time away from home with friends or family
  • Shames or embarrasses you with put-downs
  • Discourages you from seeing your family and friends
  • Controls all money spent in your home
  • Takes your money and refuses to give you any
  • Controls where you go, who you see and what you do
  • Tells you how to wear your hair or how to dress
  • Acts in ways that scare you
  • Doesn’t allow you to make your own decisions
  • Stalks you or monitors you in person or through GPS tracking
  • Tells you that you are a bad parent
  • Threatens to harm or kill your loved ones, friends or pets
  • Forces you to use alcohol or drugs
  • Destroys your property

In many cases, psychological and emotional abuse are often just as intense as physical abuse, and if you or your loved one is not being abused physically, that doesn’t mean there is any less danger.

What Substances are Commonly Involved in Domestic Violence

When you think of addiction and domestic abuse and the link between the two, you might automatically picture heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs. But, certain prescription medications, specifically antidepressants like Prozac, are linked to an increased risk of violent behavior, even homicidal behavior.

rx medication violence

In fact, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices conducted a study which was published in the journal PloS One that identifies 31 prescription medications that are excessively reported and linked to violent behavior towards other people.

Ten of these include:

  1. Chantix (Varenicline): This is an anti-smoking prescription medication that helps reduce your cravings. It is also, however, linked to violence around 18 times more than other drugs like Xyban (3.9 times) and Nicotine replacement (1.9 times).
  2. Prozac (Fluoxetine): This is a SSRI antidepressant and is linked to violence around 10.9 times more than other medications.
  3. Paxil (Paroxetine): This is another SSRI antidepressant and is linked to violence around 10.3 times more than other medications.
  4. Amphetamines: These are used for treating ADHD and are linked to violence around 9.6 times more than other medications.
  5. Lariam (Mefoquine): This is used to treat malaria and is linked to violence around 9.5 times more than other medications.
  6. Strattera (Atomoxetine): This is also used to treat ADHD and is linked to violence around 9 times more than other drugs.
  7. Halcion (Triazolam): This is used to treat insomnia and is linked to violence around 8.7 times more than other drugs.
  8. Luvox (Fluvoxamine): This is a SSRI antidepressant which is 8.4 times more likely to be linked to violence than other drugs.
  9. Effexor (Venlafaxine): This is used to treat anxiety disorders and works as an antidepressant. It is linked to violence around 8.3 times more than other medications.
  10. Pristiq (Desvenlafaxine): This is another antidepressant that affects both noradrenaline and serotonin. It is linked to violence around 7.9 times more than other drugs.

Effects of Domestic Violence Abuse

When you or a loved one is exposed to domestic violence, there are often mental, physical and spiritual shifts that take place and get worse if not addressed. The Centers for Disease Control conducted a study that showed that around three in every 10 women who live in the United States, who were raped, stalked, or who experienced physical violence from their intimate partner also reported at least one effect or measured impact related to forms of violence in the relationship.

Your response to trauma can be much different than any other person, even when you experience the same type of abuse. There are factors that can influence how you respond to both short and long-term effects of domestic abuse, such as the degree of severity, how often the abuse happened and the effects on your physical health. How you naturally react and cope with stress will affect the overall impact that domestic abuse has on you. Other factors may include any unrelated traumatic incidents that happened previously, how old you were when a trauma happened and the extent of therapy you went through.

abuse trauma

Effects of domestic violence against women can be overwhelming, and it’s important that you know this. It’s not uncommon for you to forget about personality traits you had before the abusive relationship began, particularly if you have been abused for a long time.

Domestic abuse can seriously impact how you think and interact with the world around you. When you are exposed to persistent domestic violence for a long time, you not only endure physical injuries, but also mental shifts as your mind begins processing this trauma or attempt to protect your body. Your mental stability is affected significantly as well as your feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

Even if you survive domestic violence and get away from it, you can still suffer with depression symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder and increased anxiety. This often leads to alcohol and drug use as a way of coping, which then turns into even greater emotional and physical challenges.

What Victims of Domestic Violence with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Need to Know

There are a handful of reasons why domestic violence and addiction co-occur. Some reasons include:

  • Your inhibitions are lowered with drugs and alcohol, which can lead to the likelihood of engaging in poor behaviors.
  • Intoxication may make you far more impulsive than normal, which can lead to you to doing things without a care of the consequences of their behavior.
  • Your decision-making capacity while you are intoxicated is reduced, which can lead to poor choices.
  • You can become paranoid on certain medications like stimulants, which can lead to extreme behaviors.

First, you can’t ignore domestic violence in the hope that your situation will get better. This can be very dangerous. You need to ensure your safety, and if you have children, ensure theirs as well. Intimate partner violence and alcohol or drugs is understandable and common. But, reaching for drugs and alcohol in order to cope with your situation will not help you out of your situation, but also expose you to profound and lasting consequences. You can become dependent on these substances and leave yourself vulnerable to more violence.

domestic violence

You need to get help from a source that is outside your home. You put yourself in danger by attempting to hide the problem from everyone outside your home. Your personal safety (and your children’s) must take priority over any love you might still feel for your partner.

You will get no support inside your home for dealing with the dual challenges of substance abuse and intimate partner violence. You have too many obstacles in your way and the barriers are far too high for you or family members to deal with. Support, protection and treatment need to come from outside your home.

Getting Treatment that Addresses Both Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and domestic violence are linked in various ways. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ strategy to help all clients overcome this challenge. For both you and your family to heal from this type of situation and rebuild your lives, you need professional, individualized treatment.

You need a treatment program that can offer you with:

You need specific treatment such as a women-only recovery program that teaches you that your life is not defined by domestic violence.

There are basically three areas that have to be addressed when you go to a treatment facility to overcome both substance abuse and domestic violence.

  • First, you have to be safe. Whether you are receiving inpatient or outpatient care, you have to be ensured that your physical safety is intact. Security measures have to be taken and confidentiality is a must.
  • Second, you need to know that the treatment staff believes you and you need to have this validation to empower you to begin treatment and continue with long-term planning.
  • Third, you need to know all your options and any risks that come with any options. You need to be supported in every step of developing your safety plan while you receive treatment.

You will have to address some immediate goals right away when dealing with substance abuse on top of domestic violence. Your treatment counselors will work with you to put you into immediate medical detox and stabilize your condition. They will help manage your withdrawal symptoms and treat any other health concerns (like pregnancy or emotional and psychological disorders like anxiety or depression) that could distract you from your treatment. Any physical health concerns will be addressed such as hepatitis, abscesses, bruises or cuts. You will also be screened for any sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.

immediate goal

You will be asked to assume responsibility for your addiction and get rid of any thoughts that you are to blame for the behavior of your abusing partner. You can’t control your partner’s behavior and you will learn that no matter how desperately you believe or want to believe that you can control it.

When you first come into the treatment program, you may have poor decision-making skills. Understanding and improving upon these poor decision-making skills will be part of your treatment. You will be empowered and helped to develop, focus, validate and strengthen your decision-making skills.

Throughout your time in your substance abuse program, your entire family will be involved in the process. It is not only you that needs help getting past the memories of domestic violence and the throws of addiction. Your family will need some guidance as well to overcome the challenges associated with domestic violence and addiction.

abuse treatment

You might feel overwhelmed or scared to seek treatment. This is understandable. Many women lack the independence and confidence to escape their abusive situation when they have been a victim of domestic violence. By getting the help from a treatment facility, you can develop the courage and strength you need to be free of drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. It is here that you can finally get healthy and stay healthy. Your journey begins here.

JourneyPure Voyage is a women’s only rehab center in Murfreesboro, TN. Our treatment programs are tailored to the needs of women. If you have been a victim or domestic violence and/or are dealing with substance abuse, please call us at (615) 939-9294. We are here for you to get healthy and stay healthy.

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