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The Link Between Domestic Violence and

Substance Abuse

The complex link between domestic violence and substance abuse creates unique challenges to treatment and encourages relapse in both behaviors. Forty to sixty percent of domestic violence incidents involve substance abuse, according to a 2014 article published by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. More than one in five male abusers admitted to using substances before the most recent and extreme acts of violence, highlighting that drugs and alcohol may exacerbate violent tendencies.  


Abused Women and Substance Use

Per the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, women make up 85 percent of domestic violence victims. Substance-using women are more vulnerable to domestic violence than their nonusing counterparts. Similarly, women in violent relationships are more prone to have substance abuse issues than women in nonviolent relationships. A study on expectant mothers in North Carolina revealed that domestic abuse victims were more susceptible to using substances before and during pregnancy compared to expectant mothers in nonviolent relationships. Additionally, numerous international studies show domestic violence is associated with negative outcomes for both pregnant mothers and infants. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 56 percent of abused women have psychiatric problems, and victims of intimate partner violence are vulnerable to alcohol and marijuana use. Numerous studies also found a correlation between intimate partner violence, morbid obesity and disturbed eating behaviors. Women who go through physical abuse often deal with stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and physical pain. These women may resort to abusing substances to self-medicate their pain or dissolve their traumatic memories. Because of the anxiety and depression associated with domestic violence, doctors typically prescribe tranquilizers, sedatives and painkillers to address the symptoms. Survivors of intimate partner violence may misuse these medications, leading to a substance use disorder. Victims of domestic violence face additional risks for a number of health problems, including physical injury, sexually-transmitted diseases, eating disorders and suicide.

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