domestic violence and substance abuse

Drug or alcohol addiction is a slow, often insidious progression, the signs and symptoms of which are often left unchecked, thus devastating the addict, their family, and others in the community. It’s an equal opportunity life-destroyer, addiction. Not only does it cause great physical and psychological harm to the addict, but it has a ripple effect that creates much greater social problems—like domestic violence.

Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), around 50 percent of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have problems with substance abuse, and 75 percent of those abused spouses also abuse drugs or alcohol with their partner. 42 percent of victims used a substance the day they get assaulted. Clearly, there is a connection between domestic violence and substance abuse.

It’s important to understand exactly what defines domestic violence, which entails the intentional physical, emotional, or sexual harm inflicted on one member of a household by another. Such incidents can occur between partners, parents and children, and, also common, adult relatives and senior citizens.

Substance abuse isn’t the only factor that leads to trouble in the household, but domestic violence and drug abuse are intertwined due to underlying mental issues—most commonly depression, anxiety, or PTSD. The link is exacerbated by financial issues, relationship troubles—normal life stuff. For victims of domestic violence, substances provide a temporary escape. The tragedy is that, because of their drug use, society often blames the victims.

Treating Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a topic that virtually all treatment programs address. Most provide specialized programs that are designed to help both victims and perpetrators: trauma-based therapy interventions like EMDR, psychodrama, and group sessions help tremendously. Those who commit acts of domestic abuse are usually victims of domestic abuse themselves; very few people are just vicious inside.

If someone you know is being abused at home, don’t feel like you should “mind your own business,” as if this the situation is normal. When somebody’s human rights are being violated—when they have to feel afraid in their own home—it’s everyone’s business. We’re all here to look out for each other.


Dealing with these situations can be tricky, but professional guidance is out there. Before you attempt to intervene, get familiar with the resources and facilities in your community that can provide you with the information and support you need in order to go about this as safely as possible. For further information on domestic abuse and substance addiction, explore our blog archives.  If you’re in danger or need assistance, contact our office at 800-910-9299.

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