Domestic violence is defined as "…a pattern of abusive and threatening behaviors that may include physical, emotional, economic and sexual violence as well as intimidation, isolation and coercion. The purpose of domestic violence is to establish and exert power and control over another." Substance abuse is defined as "the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs".
How are these two issues linked? Misusing substances can render a person incapable of controlling behaviors and increase his or her impulsivity. For example, excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to common symptoms such as impaired judgment and blackouts during which the individual has no awareness of what is being said or done. This can elevate a difference of opinion between spouses into a domestic violence situation at a more rapid rate than if both parties involved were sober. It is also difficult to reason with someone who is under the influence, which can cause arguments and violent outburst to escalate and continue.
The intertwined relationship between domestic violence and substance misuse is not exclusive to a "cause and effect" relationship starting with the substance misuse and leading to the domestic violence. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, one form of physical abuse is forcing another to use and abuse substances, like drugs and alcohol. Long-term and systematic domestic abuse in this manner can ultimately lead to a substance use disorder. This cyclical connection is supported empirically. A publication from the American Society of Addiction Medicine cited 40-60 percent of IPV, or Intimate Partner Violence, incidents co-occur with substance misuse.
Many people turn to substances to self-medicate emotional and mental pain. Some of the greatest emotional suffering that a person can endure is caused by repeated and severe domestic violence. When the victim is living in fear and looking for an escape, it can be far too easy to turn to the misuse of substances to dull both the physical and mental pain of domestic abuse.
How can this vicious cycle of domestic violence and substance abuse be stopped? You or your loved one can find help through professional and expert Washington State addiction treatment that is equipped to handle co-occurring disorders, meaning that both the substance use disorder and any underlying mental health conditions are treated in conjunction. These dual diagnosis programs in Washington State are perfect for helping families overcome the dual challenges of substance use disorder and domestic violence.
If you are dealing with domestic violence and substance use disorder, do not wait another moment to contact us. The call is free and confidential, and it can save your life.