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Domestic Abuse and Substance Abuse

Domestic violence and substance abuse are generationally connected and more common than people believe. Unfortunately, the risk factors for domestic abuse and addiction are a family history of both forms of abuse. Other similarities lie in the domestic violence victims’ belief that violence is normal behavior, just as those with a substance use disorder think self-medicating with a substance is normal. The connections are strong and intertwined in a complicated maze of generational dysfunctions. 

Domestic violence victims are often held captive by a partner with a substance use disorder. Each partner may remember parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents exhibiting the same behaviors and do not understand the situation’s ramifications. Generational domestic abuse and addiction are often the beginning of alcohol or drug use in children and teenagers reaching out for a substance to cope with violence. Stigma still runs deep with domestic violence and substance abuse, although awareness continues to improve, making it difficult to reach out for help. 

Domestic Abuse and Addiction Overview

Domestic violence and intimate partner violence are the same. One of the parties of a relationship abuses the other partner to control a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship. Domestic violence has many forms and uses a pattern of power plays to gain control and manipulate the other partner. Most cases of domestic violence go unreported, but 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are victims of domestic violence in the United States. 

Forms of domestic or intimate partner violence include:

  • Economic or financial violence
  • Physical and threats of violence
  • Humiliation and Belittlement
  • Controlling mentally and physically
  • Isolating the victim from outside friends and family
  • Mental, physical, verbal, and spiritual abuse

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s report on Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence reveals some alarming statistics substantiating the connection between domestic violence and substance abuse. Their research finds that ¼ to ½ of men committing domestic violence also have a substance abuse problem. Women with substance use disorders are more likely to become victims of domestic abuse. Half of battering partners report having had an addiction.  The report also states that about 40% of children from violent homes believe their father had a drinking problem. 

Domestic Abuse, Control, and Power

In 1984, the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, made the power and control wheel to describe the experience of the victims of domestic violence. The domestic violence wheel of power and control represents how domestic violence escalates by describing behaviors that come full circle and repeat continually. Sometimes, an abuser may force the partner to use drugs using their addiction as a control tool. In other forms of abuse, the abuser has a substance use disorder and loses control, leading to domestic abuse. 

The wheel includes the following behaviors in the cycle of abuse:

  • Using intimidation through looks, actions, and threats
  • Using emotional abuse by using humiliation, belittlement, guilt, and mind games
  • Using isolation by not allowing the victim to have friends, visit, or talk to family
  • Minimizing, denying, and blaming the victim, trying to put responsibility on the victim
  • Using children and pets to put fear into the victim
  • Using male privilege to treat the victim like a servant and make all decisions for the victim
  • Using economic abuse by controlling all money
  • Using coercion and threats

Mental health conditions can also factor in domestic violence and substance abuse. Substance abuse can escalate through the presence of a mental health disorder, and the victim of domestic violence can develop a mental health disorder because of emotional distress. Victims experiencing a mental health condition may reach out to self-medicate and develop a substance use disorder. All the co-occurring conditions present in one or the other partner can contribute to a more toxic environment. 

Victims of abusive behavior may develop the following:

  • Low self-worth and eroding sense of confidence
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Suicidal ideation or failed suicide attempts
  • Aggression
  • Insomnia
  • Poor academic performance and career damage
  • Isolation
  • Change in appearance, weight loss, or gain
  • Substance use disorder
  • Women, Addiction, and Domestic Abuse

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, women are 2 to 4 times more likely to experience domestic abuse when they have a partner who drinks alcohol. Women experiencing domestic abuse and addiction or having a partner with a substance use disorder may be self-medicating to cope. Women experiencing domestic abuse are more likely to smoke cigarettes. Women dealing with domestic violence are more likely to have eating disorders or obesity. 

Women exposed to sexual assault are:

  • 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana
  • 6.4 times more likely to use cocaine
  • 5.3 times more likely to use prescription drugs
  • More vulnerable to homelessness
  • More vulnerable to poverty
  • More vulnerable to developing a substance use disorder

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence claims that while women are abusive partners, there is little data collection. Women who abuse are more likely to have an alcohol use disorder. Women who perpetrate domestic violence have anger issues as a motive. It is always a question as to who the abusive partner is when domestic violence occurs; women initiate violence as well as men, but a more significant percentage state self-defense as a reason. 

Men, Addiction, and Domestic Abuse

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 men report physical assault by an intimate partner by slapping, pushing, or shoving. 1 in 7 men report severe physical assault, including being hit with a fist or hard object, kicked, slammed against something, choked, or burned by an intimate partner in their lifetime. The same abusive tactics are used against men, using the control and power wheel, including psychologically aggressive behavior, with 48.8% of men. 4 in 10 have experienced coercive control, including isolation, manipulation, threats, and economic power. 

Experts writing about Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence from the National Library of Medicine agree that the most significant contributing factor to domestic violence is alcohol. The question remains that the researchers are still searching for the answer to where the violence comes from in men. They are unclear if the man is violent because he is drunk or drinks to reduce inhibitions against violent behaviors. Aggressive behavior is close to intoxication, which may be a significant factor in men. 

Effects on Children

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, children experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse in their homes believe that 40% had fathers with a drinking problem. For children experiencing physical abuse, they have a connection with a substance use disorder later in life. 1 in 5 children are witness to domestic violence in their childhood. Domestic violence is a form of childhood trauma and poses a greater risk of severe adulthood issues. 

The following adult health problems can develop from childhood trauma:

  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Substance use disorder
  • Tobacco use
  • Unintended pregnancy

Treatment and Finding Safety

Domestic abuse and addiction are both treatable issues. Alcohol use disorders respond positively to medically monitored detox to manage withdrawal symptoms. Rehab following detox allows individual therapy to delve into addiction and domestic abuse therapy. Family and group therapy are beneficial in both addiction and domestic abuse counseling. Assessments for mental health co-occurring disorders will allow medical and mental health professionals to design a treatment plan for those conditions. 

Find Healing from Domestic Violence and Substance Use Disorders in Georgia

Never giving up hope for healing in domestic violence and addiction treatment is essential. The Retreat of Atlanta, Georgia, offers a detox plan to begin recovering from a substance use disorder. Therapy options can start after the substance is out of the body and sobriety is complete. Contact the center to initiate an assessment and initiate the process. 

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