Addiction and Domestic Abuse—Treating Addiction Helps Reduce Abuse Statistics

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When people think of treating drug and alcohol addiction, they mostly think of the immediate benefit of an individual who is no longer a slave to a substance, someone who can finally branch out and experience life anew.

However, there is a host of other benefits that comes with treating addiction. For example, households, where substance abuse occurs, are often households where domestic violence occurs. More often than not, when the substance abuse is treated, individuals who either cause or experience domestic abuse are finally able to focus on the domestic abuse and resolve the issues.

Addiction keeps people trapped in their ways, in their unhealthy and toxic relationships and environments, in their dangerous behavioral patterns. Resolving addiction is the first step towards creating a better life for that person and everyone around them. While it is not a given that addiction causes domestic abuse (more on that later), addressing and eradicating drug and alcohol abuse within the home is the crucial first step towards removing domestic violence.

Substance Abuse and Domestic Abuse Often Occur in the Same Household

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), substance abuse has been found to co-occur in 40-60% of intimate partner violence cases. While it is true that drug intoxication has often been identified as a precursor for an incident of abuse, ASAM also identified that spousal abuse usually begins before substance abuse sets in. While it is sometimes believed that addiction causes domestic violence, the opposite seems to be the case.

Spousal abuse has been identified as a predictor of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. And in truth, this can occur for both the aggressor and the victim. Aggressors often turn to substance abuse, but victims often do too, as a coping mechanism for their suffering.

Domestic abuse and substance abuse also appears with children, not just in spousal relationships. According to the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics, three out of four child welfare professionals cite substance abuse as the top cause for the very concerning rise in child mistreatment since 1986. And to make matters worse, children who grow up in abusive homes where substance abuse is present are themselves more likely to experience or cause domestic abuse or to fall prey to substance abuse in the future.

The Complicated Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Domestic Abuse— Breaking a Myth

People who use drugs and alcohol are often vilified. That is a huge mistake, as stigmatizing addicts does nothing to improve their condition. And should domestic abuse occur in the households of addicts, that vilification and condemnation is often exacerbated, making conditions worse not only for the addict but for everyone else in his or her home.

“A prevailing myth about domestic violence is that alcohol and drugs are the major causes of domestic abuse. In reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent.”

In “Substance Abuse and Woman Abuse by Male Partners,” Larry W. Bennett makes a strong case for why it is not the addiction itself that creates domestic violence, rather that substance abuse greatly exacerbates already ongoing trends of abuse: “A prevailing myth about domestic violence is that alcohol and drugs are the major causes of domestic abuse. In reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent. Alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behavior as a result of the alcohol. While an abuser’s use of alcohol may have an effect on the severity of the abuse or the ease with which the abuser can justify his actions, an abuser does not become violent ‘because’ drinking causes him to lose control of his temper. Domestic violence is used to exert power and control over another; it does not represent a loss of control.”

Bennett contends that alcohol and drug use affect the user’s ability to perceive, integrate, and process information. But Bennett insists that, while alcohol does exacerbate conditions, alcohol does not cause violence. Alcohol abuse can cause people to misinterpret one another or to misunderstand patterns of behavior, which can lead to altercations. But the domestic abuse crisis is an underlying issue further worsened by drinking, not caused by it.

What’s the Solution?

In most cases, patterns of domestic abuse or intimate partner violence begin early on and then are later exacerbated when one or more of the individuals in that household take on substance abuse. Substance abuse is often introduced as a way to cope with the emotional and physical hardships of domestic abuse.

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Thankfully, there is a solution. Some residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers have the tools for addressing substance abuse and the co-occurring presence of domestic violence that is worsened by substance abuse.

Seeking drug treatment is crucial for halting patterns of substance abuse. Drug and alcohol addiction is such an overwhelming, overpowering physical and mental crisis that little progress can be made in any area of a person’s life until the addiction is addressed and resolved. Until the person is helped to overcome drug and alcohol use, underlying harmful character traits (like domestic abuse) will almost always continue.

Narconon offers a solution not just to addiction but also to help people overcome the many crises they face that are connected to addiction. Narconon helps people rebuild their lives across all aspects of their life. Narconon does not just get people off of drugs. Narconon helps people find and address the underlying issues that caused them to use substances in the first place. So Narconon can eradicate addiction for good (having tackled and remedied the underlying cause of addiction).

For many domestic abusers, their patterns of abuse are what led to drinking or drug use. That’s why Narconon recognizes the importance of addressing both problems.

If you know someone who is struggling with substance abuse and domestic abuse, please call Narconon today. Please do not wait until it is too late.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, MCAP, RAS, LADC



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.