Substance use does not cause intimate partner violence. Not all people who cause harm in a relationship use drugs or alcohol, and not all people who use drugs or alcohol cause harm in their relationships. However, there is a correlation between substance misuse and intimate partner violence (IPV), both of which are public health concerns that impact the lives of adults and children around the country.
In fact, various studies noted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine identified substance abuse as a factor in perpetrating or exacerbating domestic violence 40-60 percent of the time. Additionally, when alcohol or drug use was involved in a violent situation, physical violence was 11 times as likely to occur as in cases where it was not present.
Substance misuse commonly is a maladaptive coping mechanism to trauma experienced both in childhood and adulthood. There is a strong linkage between individuals growing up in a household with substance abuse and misusing drugs or alcohol themselves. A similar pattern is also seen with IPV; being raised in a household where IPV occurs increases the likelihood that IPV will be experienced in adulthood.
Research has shown that witnessing or experiencing prolonged trauma in adolescence results in a child’s brain developing differently than those who did not experience such trauma. Namely, this impacts the part of the brain that regulates emotions, which can result in unhealthy relationships, maladaptive coping skills, and impulsive behaviors. These children also have an increased chance of developing depression, PTSD, and substance use disorders.
Substance use can also play a role in maintaining control over another person. A survivor who is struggling with addiction—whether in response to the traumatic nature of their situation or not—might find it especially challenging to leave an abusive partner who provides them with access to a substance they are dependent on.
At Radiant Futures, we strive to be accessible to every survivor, including those struggling with addiction. We use a survivor driven approach in order to assess participants’ substance use at any stage during their recovery. We explore drug or alcohol concerns at the point of contact via the helpline assessment, clinical assessment, and case management services. Additionally, our Center’s relapse prevention “Come As You Are” group helps participants identify key characters of substance abusing behaviors and the overlap between IPV. The Clinical Advocacy team utilizes a harm reduction model, relapse prevention techniques, and psychoeducation regarding social support and the strengths of the 12-step community.