There is a strong link between domestic violence and substance abuse, which has been studied and ascertained time and time again. A number of studies have concluded that the majority of domestic abusers have some sort of addiction issue, or reliance on substances.

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 will suffer from substance abuse issues in the future.


What is domestic violence?

Whilst there tends to be an image of domestic violence as involving aggressive physical behaviour between partners, this umbrella term refers to a range of behaviours which are actually more nuanced than that.

The Mayo Clinic defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of coercive tactics used to gain and maintain power and control in an ongoing, familiar relationship.” So, domestic violence may refer to violence and intimidation between partners or family members, but it could also include any behaviour which is used to gain power or control over another family member.

Verbal abuse is domestic violence, and includes shouting, swearing at and humiliating the other person. Psychological abuse is also included under the domestic violence umbrella, and could involve destroying property, abusing pets, gaslighting and silent treatment.


Domestic violence and addiction

Domestic violence and addiction form a sort of 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 addiction.

According to the America Society of Addiction Medicine, “victims and abusers are 11 times more likely to be involved in domestic violence incidents on days of heavy substance abuse,” and domestic abuse against women who are with men who drink alcohol is up to 4 times more likely than in relationships with men who do not drink or take drugs.

Alcohol is a huge factor in physical violence against women (although men can also be the victims of such abuse). The World Health Organisation (WHO) reveals that 50% of men accused of killing their spouses were drunk at the time. Abuse is also statistically far more likely to occur when the abuser is drunk, even when the victim is sober at the time.

Addiction can cause friction in relationships, leading to things like job loss and thus financial problems, mental health issues and medical bills. In a person who is predisposed to the sort of behaviour that leads to domestic violence, being an addict or living with one could easily turn into domestic violence. This is even more likely when there are two addicts living together.


Cycle of abuse/cycle of addiction

An interesting thing to note is that both 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.


What is the cycle of abuse?

A domestic abuser is usually obsessed with their need to feel control over their victim, and this need for control progresses over time so that they need to feel more and more in control of every aspect of their victim’s life.

Over time, outbursts will become more severe in aggression, and with less provocation. After one of these episodes, it is common for the abuser to promise never to attack the victim again, and their behaviour to improve temporarily. After a short while, though, the impulse returns and the behaviour worsens.


How is this similar to the cycle of addiction?

Without proper treatment, addicts follow a similar pattern in their addictions. Their drinking or substance abuse patterns will get worse and problems in their lives will escalate, until there is an event or situation which causes the user to feel remorse and try to fix their behaviour. But the addiction eventually makes the user return to the behaviour, and it continues to escalate over time.


Effects of domestic violence

Whilst the individual who is perpetrating the domestic violence may well feel shame at their behaviour, especially when they are also suffering from addiction, the effects on the victim of domestic violence are often far more pronounced.

Some of the problems that a victim might develop after suffering domestic abuse include:

Addiction and substance abuse (often used as a coping mechanism whilst still within the abusive partnership)




Eating disorders (a classic way for someone who feels out of control to feel as though they are taking back control)


What can be done about this cycle?

The only way to deal with an addiction which is also feeding into an abusive relationship is to try to heal the two problems simultaneously.

A rehabilitation facility takes the addict out of the family situation, immediately making life easier for those within the home. Some centres also provide counselling and other therapies to help deal with a wide range of emotional issues, allowing the sufferer to understand themselves and why they behave in certain ways that much easier.

At Ocean Recovery Centre, we offer a range of treatments to help you to get through every stage of the rehabilitation process. You will be helped through detox, monitored and given medication to make it easier and more comfortable, and then take part in a residential rehabilitation programme which includes group and family sessions to help you to understand your issues, and what measures you can put into place to stop yourself relapsing on the outside. Family sessions can help your family to say the things that they need to without fear of aggression or violence, which they may have become used to.

Even better, Ocean Recovery Centre provides a dedicated aftercare service which ensures that your early days on the outside don’t feel too difficult.

To learn more about attending our residential rehab clinic, call us on 01253 847 553


John Gillen - Author - Last updated: March 26, 2021

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.