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Domestic violence is the intentional use of emotional, psychological, sexual or physical force by one family member or intimate partner to control another. Victims of domestic violence who struggle with addiction face significant barriers to receiving treatment, but programs that effectively address addiction and abuse-related trauma are available.
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, affects millions of people in the United States. It occurs when an individual causes sexual, physical or psychological harm to a current or former partner or spouse.
The abuse may involve verbal, emotional and physical intimidation, destruction of property, maiming or killing pets, rape and physical attacks.
The four main types of domestic abuse include:
According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, most substance abusers are not abusive toward their partners. However, a large number of people who abuse their partners also engage in substance abuse.
In addition to a prior history of being abusive, heavy substance use is a major risk factor for domestic violence. Drug and alcohol use may affect both parties in cases of domestic and sexual abuse. An abuser may be violent because of substance use, and a victim may use substances to cope with the abuse.
Research has found that on days of heavy substance abuse, physical violence was 11 times more likely among the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
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The complex link between domestic violence and substance abuse creates unique challenges to treatment and encourages relapse in both behaviors.
Domestic violence and chemical dependency share similar characteristics, such as loss of control, continued negative behaviors despite knowing the consequences, obsession, tolerance development and withdrawal.
Forty to sixty percent of domestic violence incidents involve substance abuse, according to a 2014 article published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. More than one in five male abusers admitted to using substances before the most recent and extreme acts of violence, highlighting that drugs and alcohol may exacerbate violent behaviors.
Source: New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
ABUSED WOMEN AND SUBSTANCE USE
Per the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, women make up 85 percent of domestic violence victims. Substance-using women are more vulnerable to domestic violence than their non-using counterparts. Similarly, women in violent relationships are more prone to have substance abuse issues than women in nonviolent relationships.
A study on expectant mothers in North Carolina revealed that domestic abuse victims were more susceptible to using substances before and during pregnancy compared to expectant mothers in nonviolent relationships.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 56 percent of abused women have psychiatric problems, and victims of intimate partner violence are vulnerable to alcohol and marijuana use. Numerous studies also found a correlation between intimate partner violence, morbid obesity and disturbed eating behaviors.
Women who go through physical abuse often deal with stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and physical pain. These women may resort to abusing substances to self-medicate their pain or dissolve their traumatic memories.
Because of the anxiety and depression associated with domestic violence, doctors typically prescribe tranquilizers, sedatives and painkillers to address the symptoms. Survivors of intimate partner violence may misuse these medications, leading to a substance use disorder.
Physical and emotional abuse from dating partners can create multiple issues, such as unhealthy eating practices, risky sexual behaviors, suicidal thoughts and pregnancy.
Individuals may use drugs and alcohol to incapacitate their partner so they can perform sexual acts that their partner would otherwise not agree to. These acts can include videotaping sex, having sex with multiple partners and prostitution. Victims of domestic abuse may take drugs and alcohol to mitigate the abuse that may happen if they refuse their abuser’s sexual advances.
THE ROLE OF SUBSTANCE USE IN
TREATING SUBSTANCE USE
DISORDERS AND DOMESTIC ABUSE
In order to treat substance use disorders among victims of domestic or sexual abuse effectively, it is important that health service providers are sensitive to this group’s unique needs. Addressing domestic violence or another underlying cause of substance abuse in rehab often proves to be more successful than addressing substance abuse alone.
Specialized treatment programs designed for survivors of domestic and sexual violence can greatly benefit people struggling with trauma and addiction. You should find a treatment facility that provides a safe and supportive environment and understands the link between substance abuse and domestic violence.
Therapists should address the client’s experiences with abuse early in the recovery process. This will empower clients and encourage them to be more open to learning healthy coping strategies for past trauma.
RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC