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Drug Use and Abusive Relationships

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stop 1131143 640

Drug and alcohol addiction lies at the bottom of much of our country’s societal problems. Even if the link is not instantly obvious, when we inspect closely the many problems that our country faces on a day to day basis, we can find drug addiction and alcohol at the foundation of several of these issues.

Take, for example, abusive relationships. Abusive relationships are loosely defined as any type of interpersonal relationship where one or more members of that relationship are inflicting some degree of abuse (some kind of unpleasant phenomena, whether physical or mental) on one or more of the other individuals in that relationship.

How Do We Define Abusive Relationships?

This is a tricky prospect. How do we define abusive relationships? And when the definition of “abuse” is constantly changing, how do we keep up with the times and how do we know how to predict abuse so we can correct it preemptively?

To put this in perspective, thirty years ago the only type of abuse that was considered true abuse in an interpersonal relationship was physical abuse. But now, abuse can consist of verbal and psychological factors. And it gets more complicated than that even.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has a more specific definition of abusive relationships, stating that:

  • “A pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that may include inflicted physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive social isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation, and threats. These behaviors are perpetrated by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate or dating relationship with an adult or adolescent, and one aimed at establishing control by one partner over the other.”

For the purposes of brevity and a succinct series of text, let’s not go fully into the fifty shades of grey that abound psychological and mental abuse. Rather, let’s examine the seemingly very prominent relationship between intimate partner violence and abuse and substance abuse on the part of one or more of the partners. The American Society of Addiction Medicine has more to say on this topic too, indicating that:

  • “Substance abuse has been found to co-occur in 40-60% of IPV (intimate partner violence) incidents across various studies. Several lines of evidence suggest that substance use/abuse plays a facilitative role in IPV by precipitating or exacerbating violence. Some studies also suggest the benefit of interventions that focus on substance abuse/addiction in men who have histories of IPV.”

Obviously, substance abuse now plays a huge role in intimate partner violence and domestic abuse. The clear logic here is that, if we simply did not engage in substance abuse as much, there would be far fewer instances of domestic abuse. The ASAM added more context and real-life research examples to their study report, a tidbit of which has been included below:

  • “Spousal abuse has been identified as a predictor of developing a substance abuse problem and/or addiction. Additionally, women in abusive relationships have often reported being coerced into using alcohol and/or drugs by their partners. Substance abuse and high-risk alcohol use/abuse are more prevalent among women who experience IPV compared to a cohort with no IPV experience.”

And in an excerpt from another study, cited and published by the ASAM:

  • “In a study of prenatal patients in North Carolina, victims of violence were significantly more likely to use multiple substances before and during pregnancy than those who had no experience of IPV (American Journal of Public Health). It is known that many episodes of IPV involve alcohol and/or illicit drug consumption. Research has found that on days of heavy drug and/or alcohol use, physical violence was 11 times more likely among IPV batterers and victims.”

The connection could not be more clear. Substance abuse can and does cause domestic abuse. When an instance of domestic abuse occurs, it is more likely than not that one of the individuals present (either the aggressor or the victim or both) was under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

How to Reverse the Trend

It is quite clear that there is a strong connection between relationship abuse, domestic abuse, dating violence, and substance abuse. When people misuse drugs and alcohol, they become far more likely to engage in activities and behavior that is very unlike them and very discordant with their character. This is simply what drug use and alcohol misuse does to people. It changes people, and never for the better.

People who misuse drugs and alcohol should make getting off of drugs and alcohol their top priority, lest they fall in with other bad habits and bad behaviors like domestic abuse. When it comes to reversing the trend of substance abuse in relationships, this is a matter of education and rehabilitation.

We need to educate the masses about the clear and present risks to health that partners face. We need to get people aware of all of the dangers and negative aspects that are attendant with drug use and alcohol misuse. People need to know the dangers at hand, so they know to stay away from drugs and alcohol. When people know the risks, they tend to abstain.

And for just as much effort as we put into educating people about the risks and dangers inherent with drug use and alcohol misuse, we also need to be quite focused on helping people overcome drug addiction and alcoholism. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that a good twenty-five million Americans are addicted to drugs and alcohol. It is no wonder why domestic abuse rates are so high, with such a significant chunk of the population being dependent on drugs and alcohol. We need to educate people, but we also need to rehabilitate those who are currently addicted and creating risk for more instances of domestic abuse. It’s a multi-faceted problem, that much is quite clear, and it will take multi-faceted solutions to overcome it.

Sources:

https://www.asam.org/resources/publications/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction

https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/drug-use-and-violence-unhappy-relationship

https://www.breakthecycle.org/substance-abuse-unhealthy-relationships

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