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The Link Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Substance use disorders can (and often do) co-occur with other serious issues. One of the most concerning of these is the combination of addiction and domestic violence.

What Is Domestic Violence?

People often think of domestic violence as physical abuse. In reality, any pattern of abusive behavior in an intimate relationship is considered domestic violence.

Other non-physical types of domestic violence include (but are not limited to):

  • Emotional abuse: Manipulating a person’s emotions with behaviors like withholding affection, possessiveness, controlling/monitoring their activities, etc.
  • Verbal abuse: Using words to insult, demean or control someone
  • Sexual abuse: Unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual sexual acts, etc.
  • Financial abuse: Money-related abuses like unfairly controlling funds or committing fraud to access a partner’s money
  • Spiritual abuse: Exploiting faith or beliefs to hurt someone or exert power and control over them
  • Elderly abuse: Abusing the trust and needs of an older person (neglecting care, stealing social security checks)

The Damaging Effects of Domestic Abuse

Here are just some of the effects domestic violence can have on victims and families:

  • Physical harm: Physical violence can cause bruises, cuts, broken bones, concussions, or even death.
  • Mental health issues: Patterns of abuse can trigger or worsen anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.
  • Emotional distress: Victims may be made to feel stressed, sad, worthless or guilty.
  • Money problems: Financial abuse can drain accounts, damage credit scores, etc.
  • Lasting trauma: Victims can spend years dealing with trauma resulting from domestic violence.
  • Damage to other relationships: Victims are often isolated from friends and loved ones, and may even be turned against them in defense of their abuser.
  • Legal actions: Restraining orders, court cases, jail time and other legal issues may come into play, affecting partners, children and everyone around them.
  • Harm to children: Children who witness domestic violence are at greater risk of being a victim or perpetrator of abuse They’re also more likely to develop mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Often Go Hand in Hand

Domestic violence is often linked to drug or alcohol abuse. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 40-60% of intimate partner violence incidents involve some form of substance abuse. In some cases, victims turn to substances in an effort to escape or self-medicate through hard times. More often, though, it’s the abuser who has the substance use problem.

Why and How Does Addiction Turn Into Violence?

Domestic violence isn’t necessarily caused by substance abuse; the pattern of abusive behavior may be present regardless. Still, the effects of drugs and alcohol can increase the likelihood of abusive behavior. Studies have estimated that more than 20% of male abusers report using drugs or alcohol before committing acts of domestic violence.

The effects of drugs and alcohol vary, but they all affect a person’s control in some way. If a drug increases impulsivity and lowers inhibitions, they might be more reckless, erratic or aggressive than normal. It can be hard to see the consequences of their actions, creating a perfect storm for violent behavior.

Addiction and domestic violence issues can look very different for different people. For some, drugs and alcohol make known abusive behaviors worse. For others, the violence may seem out of character, with drugs and alcohol appearing to “flip a switch.”

Any domestic violence situation, especially when drugs and alcohol are involved, can be dangerous. Getting professional help is key to understanding the underlying problem and ending the cycle.

My Addiction and Violent Behavior Are Out of Control. How Can I Change?

Admitting that you have a problem with substance abuse and violence is a powerful first step. Your next step should be to look for professional drug treatment. In rehab, you can heal your addiction, explore your mental health and address the roots of your negative behaviors.

Find a rehab that’s familiar with treating co-occurring substance abuse and domestic violence issues (like ours). They’ll understand how these issues affect each other and can help you understand and change your behaviors.

Find Help for Co-Occurring Issues at Adelante Recovery Center

At Adelante Recovery Center, we take domestic violence very seriously. We also know that it’s a complex issue, especially when it’s combined with a drug or alcohol problem. That’s why we treat every client with genuine empathy and help them build a foundation for a better future.

Whether you’ve been a perpetrator or a victim of domestic violence, you deserve the opportunity to heal from your past. Contact us today to find out how our specialized treatment programs can help you turn your life around.


  1. https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence/effects-domestic-violence-children
  2. https://www.asam.org/blog-details/article/2021/08/09/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction

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