Family Secrets: Substance Abuse, Violence, and Suicide
Scientists and medical researchers know that there is no one factor that constitutes a definite connection between substance abuse and domestic violence. However, there are certain unavoidable facts and statistics that address a correlation between these two issues.
Both substance abuse and domestic violence stand as behaviors that occur in generational cycles within families where they exist. In other words, the child who is physically abused or who watches one parent abuse the other will likely grow up to be the partner of a household where abuse takes place. Likewise, in a household where drugs or alcohol are abused by the parent, the child will often begin using substances as he matures.
When there is not a history of familial violence of addiction, the connection may result because a person suffers from an undiagnosed mental health disorder. His first use of a substance may be recreational, but when he discovers that it quiets his mental health symptoms he keeps taking it and becomes addicted.
In many families, substance abuse and violence occur and co-occur but they are kept as deep, dark secrets. Nobody talks about them. Nobody stops them. About half of all addicts suffer from some kind of co-occurring mental health or emotional disorder. People who suffer from stress, anxiety, or anger are more likely to strike out—at someone else or themselves.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) publishes scary statistics about substance abuse and violence.
- When one spouse batters another, the abuser frequently is a regular drinker.
- If the spouse who is doing the battering has been drinking, he is likely to inflict more physical harm on the victim spouse.
- Women who abuse alcohol are more likely to have a history of experiencing domestic violence in the household as children then did nonalcoholic women.
- A woman who drinks is less likely to get out of an abusive relationship.
- A man who abuses his wife puts the blame for it on his substance abuse.
- Among those who batter their spouses, 61 percent of them abuse alcohol or drugs.
If you live in a household where substance abuse and domestic violence co-exist, keep in mind that treating the substance abuse will not eliminate the risk for domestic violence.
There is another connection between substance abuse and violence that concerns researchers—those who abuse substances and concomitantly struggle with emotional issues are more likely to become victims of suicide. Their choices become unclear to them when the mind is fogged by substance abuse. For someone who has struggled with depression and addiction, goes into recovery, and then relapses, the possibility of suicide becomes acute until he is safely once again abstinent.
If you are the substance abuse client, you should speak openly to your counselor about your fears of committing violence toward yourself or others. As long as you are not currently planning your own or someone else’s death, your counselor can work with you to create a contract for safety, so that you know what to do if thoughts of depression or violence overwhelm you.
For the abused family member of an addict, you can also notify the counselor of your fears, but keep in mind that confidentiality may prevent the counselor from responding to your concerns. Be assured, however, that if you express your fears they will be heard. Contact your local mental health board or substance abuse treatment center for more information on getting help for yourself or for a loved one.