Domestic violence and substance abuse are two topics we often hear about, which, sadly, can sometimes be linked. In families where domestic violence is present, there is a strong likelihood that one or more of the partners will have an addiction issue, as well as that children within an abusive environment are more likely to suffer from substance use disorders or abuse issues in the future.

This article explores the key links between domestic violence and substance abuse.


What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic abuse can be defined as controlling, intimidating, or violent actions or behaviour commonly occurring between partners or family members, but it can also be present in other domestic relationships. This form of abuse is often misunderstood as only involving physical aggression. However, many abusive behaviours can often extend beyond physical violence, and there are also many forms of domestic abuse.

Common types of domestic abuse include:

  • Verbal abuse -This may involve shouting, swearing at, and belittling the victim repetitively.
  • Psychological abuse – This can manifest in various forms, such as destroying property or personal belongings, gaslighting, or giving silent treatment.
  • Emotional abuse – common forms of emotional abuse include humiliating, isolating, harassing, and stalking the victim.
  • Physical abuse – a term used to describe any form of violent behaviour where harm is inflicted on the victim. This may include (but is not limited to) sexual aggression, scratching, punching, biting, pushing or grabbing an individual.
  • Coercive abuse – similar to emotional abuse, but there is also an increased risk of physical intimidation and force. Common behaviours include threatening ‘consequences’ and ‘punishments for seeing friends or family, purposefully frightening the victim, and monitoring their activity and whereabouts.
  • Online abuse – This form of domestic abuse typically involves harassing, stalking and threatening victims online. Online abuse can also include taking control of the person’s social media accounts and technological devices.
  • Financial abuse – This may involve taking control over all bank accounts and removing the ability to obtain money without the consent of the abuser.


The Impact of Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

The impact of substance abuse and domestic violence can be devastating. It’s one that impacts not only the individual perpetrating the violence but also its victims in profound and lasting ways.

When we speak about individuals who commit acts of domestic violence while also battling drug and alcohol addiction, they may very well feel an overwhelming sense of shame about their actions, although there is never a justification or excuse for any form of abuse.

Substance abuse can often act as both a trigger and an amplifier for violent behaviours, pushing an individual further down a path they might not have tread if they weren’t under the influence of illicit drugs. However, the lasting consequences on the victims of such domestic violence situations are often much more pronounced and pervasive.

Domestic violence, in any form, is a deeply traumatic experience. The repercussions can echo in a person’s life long after the actual incidents have stopped. For many victims, this trauma manifests in a variety of ways. For example, some victims might turn to drugs or alcohol themselves, using these substances as a coping mechanism. Recent data suggest that this is becoming increasingly common, with 42% of survivors reporting drug abuse and/or alcohol abuse in an attempt to numb the pain, escape the haunting memories, or even adapt to the abusive environment they’re in. This behaviour can lead to a vicious cycle where the very thing they use for temporary relief becomes another problem they have to deal with.

Mental health repercussions are another significant concern. Many victims experience depression, a lingering state of sadness and hopelessness. This can be due to the constant emotional and sometimes physical pain, a shattered sense of self-worth, or the feeling of being trapped in an endless cycle of abuse.

In addition to the above, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not uncommon among domestic violence survivors. In fact, victims are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. What this means is experiencing disturbing flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, along with uncontrollable thoughts about the event or events that traumatised them, are common.

Lastly, eating disorders can also develop in victims of domestic violence. Eating disorders are, in many ways, about control. When someone feels they’ve lost control over significant aspects of their life, regulating food intake or body weight might appear as a way to regain some semblance of order or power.


How Substance Abuse Intensifies Domestic Violence

Research suggests that victims and abusers are 11 times more likely to be involved in domestic violence incidents on days of heavy substance abuse, especially in cases of intimate partner dynamics. In addition, men who consume excessive amounts of alcohol are up to 6 times more likely to abuse their partners.

Alcohol abuse is a huge risk factor in physical violence against women (although men can also be the victims of such abuse). It’s reported that, in the UK, a significant portion of the perpetrators are under the influence of substances that impair their judgment and exacerbate aggressive tendencies. Specifically, 44% of those who commit domestic violence are found to be under the influence of alcohol, which we understand has long been associated with decreased inhibitions and heightened aggressive behaviour. Additionally, 12% are under the influence of drugs.

A person with existing tendencies toward domestic violence is statistically more likely to act on them if they or their partner struggle with substance abuse. Sadly, the risk of domestic violence increases further when both individuals in the relationship have substance abuse issues.

Domestic violence and addiction can form a cycle wherein substance abuse makes it more likely that there will be domestic violence within a family, and domestic violence makes it more likely that one or more members of the family will be affected by substance misuse or addiction.


Understanding the Cycles of Abuse and Addiction

An interesting thing to note is that both drug abuse and addiction have a cyclical nature, as well as a number of common features, which include issues around control/an obsession with not losing control and a continuation of certain behaviours even though there are severe consequences.

Domestic abusers often have an overwhelming desire to exert control over their victims. As time progresses, this need for control intensifies, leading them to dominate more aspects of the victim’s life. Outbursts of aggression become more frequent and severe, often requiring less or no provocation. Following these episodes, the abuser may apologise and seemingly improve for a brief period. However, the aggressive impulse inevitably resurfaces, and the cycle of violence continues.

This trajectory of addiction mirrors the abuse pattern. Over time, these patterns are likely to intensify, and the repercussions in their lives become graver. They might have moments of clarity or significant events that compel them to amend their behaviours temporarily. Yet, without any proper intervention, the addictive behaviours resurface and continue to worsen.


What to Do If You Are Experiencing Domestic Abuse by an Abuser With a Substance Addiction

Recognising and responding to domestic abuse when your abuser has a substance addiction can be incredibly difficult. The combination of abusive behaviours and the unpredictability of addiction increases the risks involved.

Please remember that no one deserves to be abused, and help is available for both male and female victims. The combination of domestic abuse and substance addiction makes your situation especially precarious, so always prioritise your safety and well-being.

  • Prioritise your safety above all else – Your safety and the safety of your children, if you have any, should come first. Consider creating a plan on how to exit the house safely, where you will go, and what essentials you will need.
  • Secure financial resources – Financial dependence can make it harder to leave an abusive relationship. Try to save money secretly, if possible.
  • Seek support – Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to loved ones or domestic violence organisations. They can offer emotional support, advice, and resources.
  • Document the abuse – Record or take photos of injuries or damages. Include details of the abusive incidents, including dates, times, and what happened. This could serve as evidence should you require legal protection.
  • Limit confrontations as much as possible – If the abuser is under the influence, they may be more unpredictable or violent. If possible, avoid confrontations during these times.
  • Get medical attention – Seek medical treatment immediately if you are hurt or feel threatened.
  • Seek professional help – Consider seeking therapy or joining a support group. Experiencing domestic abuse is very traumatic, and this may help you process what has happened, build self-esteem, and develop coping strategies.


What to Do If You Have Substance Addiction Issues and Fear You’re Becoming Abusive

Realising that you might be causing harm while living with substance addiction can be confronting. This is where taking responsibility for your actions and seeking help is absolutely essential.

  • Acknowledge the substance addiction – Recognising and accepting your addiction is the first and most important step towards change.
  • Remember that it is never okay to abuse someone – If you feel anger or aggression building up, walk away from the situation. It is never acceptable to harm someone.
  • Consider joining support groups – Ongoing support, such as attending support groups, may be necessary in order to remain in recovery for the long term. This may mean attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) for peer support in overcoming addiction.
  • Stay away from triggers – Identify what triggers your substance use and aggressive behaviour. This might include certain places, people, or stressful situations. Once identified, make a plan to avoid or cope with them differently.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences – Build a support network of people who understand your goals and can help you stay on track.
  • Educate yourself – Understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and the lasting damage it can pose to the victim. This knowledge can be a deterrent against acting on such behaviour.
  • Seek immediate help for addiction – Becoming someone you no longer recognise is, in itself, very traumatic. Understand that immediate intervention is necessary, which means that you may require professional help from a rehabilitation clinic.


Treatment Options For Substance Addiction

At Ocean Recovery Centre, we offer a range of treatments to help you get through every stage of the process. If you need help, please do not wait. Start your journey to recovery today.

To learn more about our residential rehab clinic, call us on 01253 847 553. Alternatively, fill out one of our contact information forms, and a member of our team will be sure to reach out.


John Gillen - Author - Last updated: June 12, 2024

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.