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Partner Violence and Addictions

Partner violence is related to increased levels of alcohol and drug abuse in both the aggressor and the victim. It makes it likelier that children will engage in substance use as well due to the trauma and stress of witnessing or suffering from violence in the household.[1]


Alcohol and drug abuse in men are associated with an increased risk of inflicting injury on a partner. One study of substance-abusing men in treatment found that the risk of partner violence increased by eight to 11 percent on days when men drank alcohol compared to days they did not.[2]

This study also found that on 72 percent of days when an episode of severe violence occurred, the men drank or used drugs, usually within two hours of the abuse. 51 Moreover, wives who have been abused report more severe violence when their husbands have been drinking compared to when they have not.

Women who abuse substances are more likely to be victims of partner violence.53 Women who abuse alcohol are likelier to have an object thrown at them or to be pushed, grabbed or slapped.
One empirical study found that 46 percent of women who had been severely assaulted reported being drunk one or more times in the past year compared to 16 percent of women who were not victims of abuse.

Another study found that women who use drugs are more likely than other women to enter a new violent relationship and those who use drugs other than marijuana are more likely to experience psychological aggression and violence from their partners.

The risks of homicide and suicide for substance abusers and the risk of homicide for individuals living with a substance abuser are greater than they are for individuals not exposed to substance abuse in the home.[3]

One study that assessed the risk factors for the violent death of women in the home found that illicit drug use by a member of the household (usually a spouse, intimate acquaintance or close relative) was a significant predictor of homicide.

The link between substance abuse and partner violence can be explained in several ways.

Substance abuse may interfere with effective communication and increase aggressive tendencies, heightening the risk for conflict and violence. In addition, substance abuse impairs judgment, which may cause people to act irrationally or place themselves in potentially dangerous situations.

A possible response to experiencing partner violence may be to engage in substance abuse.

Psychological aggression and violence can contribute to relationship dissatisfaction that in turn can contribute to heavy substance use.
One study found that among low-income single mothers, violence by a partner led to a three-fold greater risk of later drug use, regardless of the women’s previous levels of drug use. Some individuals who grow up in violent, substance-abusing families tend to mimic their parents’ violent behaviors as adults.  

 For example, sons of male violent alcoholics are at increased risk of abusing their wives, while daughters of female violent alcoholics are at increased risk of being battered wives or of becoming violent alcoholics themselves.[4]

[1] Wekerle, Christine (Editor), and Wall, Anne-Marie (Editor). The Violence and Addiction Equation: Theoretical and Clinical Issues in Substance Abuse and Relationship Violence. Chicago, IL: Routledge Publishing. 2001. Pgs. 25-35. [2]  Logan, T. K., Walker, Robert, Jordan, Carol E. and Leukefeld, Carl G..Women And Victimization: Contributing Factors, Interventions, And Implications.Chicago, IL: American Psychiatric Association.October 2005.  Pgs. 115-117.[3] IBID. pgs. 75-79.[4] Juhnke, Geraldand Hagedorn, W. BryceCounseling Addicted Families: An Integrated Assessment and Treatment Model.Chicago, IL: Routledge Publishing. 2001. Pgs. 56-61.

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