Substance abuse is a pervasive problem that affects the lives of millions of people in the United States—as well as the lives of their spouses, romantic partners, and families.
According to research, various forms of abusive behavior—including domestic and sexual abuse—have a strong connection to substance abuse, in part due to shared risk factors.
Domestic Abuse And Sexual Abuse
Domestic abuse, sometimes referred to as domestic violence, refers to a form of interpersonal abuse that can occur in a household or between romantic partners.
Also known as intimate partner violence, it can affect anyone in an intimate relationship:
- family members
- romantic partners
- people who are living together
Types Of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence broadly refers to a pattern of abusive behavior that demonstrates a systematic—or repeated—pattern of control and power over another person.
Common forms of domestic abuse include:
- physical abuse
- emotional abuse
- verbal abuse
- psychological abuse
- sexual abuse
- spiritual abuse
- elderly abuse
- partner intimidation
- child abuse
What’s important to understand is that, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, age, race, ethnicity, or religion, any person can become a victim or survivor of domestic violence.
The connection between domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse is also strong.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, an estimated 40 to 60 percent of intimate partner violence (IPV) incidents co-occur with substance abuse.
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Is Domestic Violence Linked To Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol is a mind-altering substance that can lower a person’s inhibitions, affect behavior, and may lead to acts of aggression, violence, or desperation in cases of abuse and addiction.
In addition, research shows that people who experience domestic violence may also be more likely to develop issues with alcohol later in life.
According to addiction researchers and experts:
- About 25 to 50 percent of people who perpetrate domestic abuse had consumed alcohol at the time of the assault.
- Alcohol, and heavy drinking in particular, is also associated with stranger violence.
- Victims of intimate personal violence (IPV) are 70 percent more likely to engage in heavy drinking than those who have not experienced IPV.
- Women who abuse alcohol are more likely to become victims of domestic violence than women who do not.
- Women with alcohol use disorder are more likely than those without to report a history of childhood emotional or physical abuse.
Is Domestic Violence Linked To Drug Abuse?
Drug abuse can affect one’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions and may result in patterns of violent or otherwise abusive behavior.
Shared risk factors of domestic violence and drug abuse include:
- environmental stressors (e.g. living in poverty)
- poor impulse control
- history of mental illness
- unhealthy family interactions
- economic stress
- isolation from others
Types Of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can come in different forms, and does not necessarily have to involve physical contact or penetration.
There are also “non-touching” forms of assault that, like sexual activity involving physical contact, can be emotionally and psychologically traumatic.
Examples of sexually abusive events include:
- being sexually fondled
- forcing someone to touch a person sexually
- exposure of one’s genitals without consent
- unwanted sexual contact from a family member
- attempted rape
- sexual assault
- forcing a spouse or partner to have sex
- drug-facilitated sexual assault
Is Sexual Abuse Linked To Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol is a drug that can lower a person’s inhibition and alter a person’s judgment.
This can make a person more likely to act in ways they wouldn’t while sober. Intoxication can also increase the risk of someone experiencing sexual assault or violence.
Is Sexual Abuse Linked To Drug Abuse?
Drugs other than alcohol, including psychedelics, hallucinogens, cocaine, meth, and heroin can similarly impair a person’s faculties and render them unable to consent to sexual activity.
Effects of illicit drugs that can lead to unsafe and nonconsensual sexual activity include:
- memory problems
- blacking out
- increased emotional warmth or sexual desire
- reduced inhibition
- poor judgment
- poor balance or coordination
- difficulty speaking
- mental fogginess
- hostility or aggression
- emotional instability
- loss of touch with reality
Effects Of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, And Substance Abuse
Forms of violence, including domestic abuse and sexual abuse, can take a toll on a person’s emotional, physical, and mental health—particularly for children and young adults.
Common effects of domestic violence and substance abuse include:
- poor decision-making
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- reckless behavior
- financial problems
- trust issues
- difficulty forming meaningful relationships with others
- feeling unsafe
- emotional and behavioral problems in children
- thoughts of suicide
- higher risk of mental illness and substance abuse
Effects of abuse can last for years, well into adulthood. Even so, it can be difficult for people who have survived abuse to talk about or even recognize their experience for what it was.
For some, the connection between substance abuse and past trauma may show up later in life, through the development of their own drug or alcohol problem, often as a means to cope.
Survivors Of Abuse And Drug Addiction
Research shows that people who experience domestic violence or sexual abuse are at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse problem later in life.
Drugs and alcohol can be used to numb, forget, distract, or silence thoughts that can make everyday life feel unbearable for survivors.
Unfortunately, the use of substances as a coping mechanism can have serious effects, including a lack of control over substance use and the development of a full-blown substance use disorder.
Getting Help For Substance Abuse
Many drug and alcohol treatment programs offer treatment services that can help heal relationships torn apart by substance abuse, and help survivors begin to heal from past trauma.
Treatment options for individuals and families affected by substance abuse include:
- family counseling
- support groups
- behavioral therapy
- trauma counseling
- dual diagnosis treatment
- social services support
- relapse prevention planning
Find Treatment For Substance Abuse Today
Asking for help can, for many, be the first step towards healing from a substance use disorder.
Don’t wait. Call our helpline for information about how to find nearby treatment options at a high-quality drug or alcohol treatment center today.
Published on October 13, 2021
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) — Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction
- Center for Court Innovation — Fact Sheet: Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Risk and Protective Factors | Intimate Partner Violence
- Institute of Alcohol Studies — Alcohol, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence — Domestic Violence
- RAINN — Types of Sexual Violence
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence