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Understanding The Connection Between Addiction And Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Substance use disorder (SUD), colloquially referred to as addiction, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing brain disorder. It is characterized by “clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use.” While the cause of addiction remains unknown, several risk factors (e.g., environmental risk factors, genetic risk factors, psychological risk factors, socioeconomic risk factors, etc.) have been reported to increase one’s propensity for developing substance use disorder. 

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also referred to as domestic abuse, is explained as a pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate partner, dating or family relationship, where the abuser exerts power and control over the victim. There are several different forms of domestic abuse, which can include one or more of the following types:

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

Domestic violence is not uncommon, as statistics indicate it affects an estimated 10 million people (nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men) in the United States, annually. Victims of domestic violence may experience a wide range of physiological symptoms and adverse outcomes such as depression, suicidal tendencies, panic attacks, substance use disorder, sexual and reproductive health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more.

The Connection

There is a strong link between addiction and domestic violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight the complex and multifaceted correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence through empirical evidence, some of which includes:

  • A clinical review exploring the cross-sectional and longitudinal association between substance misuse and perpetration of intimate partner violence revealed that 25 to 50 percent of men who commit domestic violence also have problems with substance misuse.
  • Research from the U.S. Department of Justice found that more than 30 percent of men drank at the time they committed a domestic assault, and 90 percent abused substances on the same day, with alcohol and cocaine abuse most common.
  • According to Practical Implications of Current Intimate Partner Violence Research for Victim Advocates and Service Providers, 42 percent of victims used alcohol or drugs the day they were assaulted, and among those fatally attacked, a toxicology screen found that around one-third had alcohol in their system and around one-quarter had used drugs, such as Vicodin.
  • A focused review that explored the scientific literature on the effect of alcohol consumption on violence related injuries assessed in the emergency room (ER), discovered that victims of spousal abuse who go to the hospital with their injuries are consistently more likely to test positive for intoxication than other admissions.
  • The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence indicates that nearly 50 percent of all men who are in domestic abuse counseling also self-identify as substance abusers.

Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that drug and alcohol dependency increases both the risk of being a victim of domestic violence and becoming a domestic violence abuser. Further, according to Psychiatric Times, drug and/ or alcohol abuse is a facilitative factor in domestic violence situations and substance abuse is known to precipitate or exacerbate existing domestic violence issues.

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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