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The Connection Between Domestic Abuse and Addiction

domestic abuse with kid on the side

There are countless reasons why an individual may turn to drugs and alcohol, and every person that abuses drugs and/ or alcohol does not inevitably develop an addiction. Some individuals may abuse substances as a coping mechanism. For some, abusing substances that once started as a recreational activity could quickly turn into a full-blown addiction. Although there are certain risk factors that are said to contribute to its development, the exact reason behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown. These include, but are not limited to environmental risk factors, genetics, age that the substance abuse began, childhood neglect, and exposure to trauma. Domestic violence, as defined by Addiction Center is “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that’s used by an intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other partner.” Addiction combined with domestic abuse can yield dangerous consequences. 


Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a brain disorder that is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli regardless of the consequences. An individual struggling with addiction will likely do whatever it takes to satisfy his or her drug cravings. Addiction affects the way one’s brain functions as habitual and prolonged substance abuse interferes with the areas of one’s brain related to reward, motivation, and memory. Addiction can be cyclical as it is a relapsing disorder; meaning that it is not uncommon for individuals to experience cycles of relapse and remission. 

Domestic Abuse

There are several different forms of domestic abuse, which can include any single or combination of the following types:

  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Spiritual abuse
  • Image-based abuse

Every single form of domestic abuse arises from one person’s desire for control over another. When inebriation is introduced into the situation, an individual can lose control over his or her inhibitions, which in turn can greatly increase the chances of exhibiting abusive behaviors. Research has found that nearly eight percent of domestic violence crimes are related to the use of drugs.  

The Overlap

There is a plethora of shared characteristics between domestic violence and addiction. According to an article provided in the US National Library of Medicine these can include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Worsen over time
  • A loss of control
  • Inability to change the behavior despite negative consequences
  • Denial
  • Shame
  • Exhibiting irrational behaviors

The risk of domestic violence increases in situations where both parties have a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is often a cyclical pattern. All too often, the victim of the abuse is hesitant to report the attack for fear of retaliation. This can, in turn, perpetuate the dysfunction and enable the unhealthy relationship to carry on. If left untreated, addiction and/ or domestic abuse can lead to severe short and long-term consequences, and in the most serious of cases be deadly. 

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous, and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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