The progression of drug and alcohol addiction is slow and often insidious. When the signs and symptoms of addiction are left unchecked it has significant and devastating impacts on the addict, their family and others in the community. As we all know, addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives.
Not only does substance abuse cause great physical and psychological harm to the addict, their abuse of drugs and alcohol creates a ripple effect that causes greater social problems. One of the biggest and most tragic issues that can be seen with those with substance abuse issues is domestic violence.
Statistics Regarding Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse
The following statistics bring into focus the significant link between domestic violence and substance abuse:
- According to statistics provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), between 25 to 50 percent of men who commit acts of domestic violence also have problems with substance abuse.
- According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Justice shows that approximately 75% of victims in an abusive relationship who misuse alcohol or drugs are with a partner who also abuses substances.
- Three of every four victims in an abusive relationship who misuse alcohol or drugs are with a partner who also abuses substances.
Additionally, U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that 42% of victims used alcohol or drugs the day they were assaulted, and among those fatally attacked a toxicology screen found that around one-third had alcohol in their system and around one-quarter had used drugs. There is no doubt there are strong connections substance abuse and domestic violence. If you, a loved one, a family member or a friend who are caught in a situation where both domestic violence and substance abuse occurring in the home, any form of treatment or intervention must be able to address the specific needs of the victim and the perpetrator as well as the underlying issues that lie at the root of their substance abuse.
A Clear Definition of Domestic Violence
It is extremely important to clearly domestic violence and what it entails. Domestic violence is the intentional physical, emotional or sexual harm inflicted on one member of a household by another. Incidents of domestic violence can occur between partners, parents and children, and it can even be between siblings.
When domestic violence occurs, it can be a singular occurrence, but it is estimated that two-thirds of all domestic violence cases consist of incidents that are ongoing for a significant period of time. Domestic abuse not only occurs between men and women, it is also common among adult relatives and senior citizens.
The Connection Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse
When discussing the link between domestic abuse and substance abuse, there needs to be a clear understanding that substance abuse itself is not the only factor that leads to trouble in the household. One major reason why substance abuse and domestic violence are intertwined is due to an underlying mental issue such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The link between the two can be exacerbated by financial or relationship issues among other factors
For the victims of domestic violence, being under the influence of substances can cloud their judgment and decrease their awareness of an escalating situation. It is also the case that in environments where substance misuse is tolerated, this is also true of violence. An unfortunate result that springs from this thought is that society is quick to blame victims of domestic violence who have a problem with substance dependency. As a result, people may have the feeling the victim has brought the situation on themselves and that they are not deserving of the same help as others suffering from domestic violence.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
There are several red flags that domestic violence and substance misuse are occurring. These telltale signs include the following:
- Getting high or drunk more often than usual, particularly during the morning or other times of day when they wouldn’t normally do so
- One partner gets anxious or agitated if they don’t have access to alcohol or drugs
- A loved one is using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with problems
- A loved one is frequently getting into trouble at one’s place of employment or with law enforcement.
If these or similar signs are occurring, it is best to seek quality advice from experienced addiction professionals about the best approach to take in working through those volatile issues. Addressing these concerns can be a very delicate matter, and it is extremely important that you stay safe and avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation where you, the victim, the perpetrator and others can be hurt.
When finding treatment that addresses both substance abuse and domestic violence, treatment programs need to offer specialized counseling in addition to essential treatment services such as detox, therapy and life and coping skills training and relapse prevention education. Treatment protocol will be highly dependent on whether the individual is the victim of abuse or is the perpetrator of abuse.
For those who are the victims of abuse, their individualized treatment programs can include such innovative therapies as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), psychodrama therapy, as well as family therapy. These programs must also provide services that help victims to develop the strength and courage to break free from substance abuse.
For those who are the perpetrators of domestic violence, treatment professionals must have the understanding those who are perpetrators of abuse often have been the victims of abuse themselves. These individuals must receive treatment that will help them cope with their past abuse, and trauma-based therapy interventions such as EDMR, group therapy and psychodrama therapy can be of extreme benefit. Oftentimes, those who are abusers feel a great amount of shame and embarrassment which prevents them from telling the full story about their abusive past. It is important that the treatment facility provides an environment that is non-judgmental and supportive of their desire to change.
As already stated, dealing with addiction and domestic violence can be a tricky and volatile situation. Before you attempt to intervene, be familiar with the resources and facilities in your community that can provide you with the information, support and experience you need in order to make the best informed choices and you keep all involved as safe as possible.