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The Link Between Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2020, a time to turn the spotlight on the nationwide problem of intimate partner abuse. This year makes it even more crucial to recognize the issues surrounding domestic violence. Domestic violence cases have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, after directives to self-quarantine made it more challenging for victims to escape their abusers or notify others about their plight. 

Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence Go Hand in Hand

The adverse effects of drugs and alcohol on people’s physical and mental health are well-documented. However, a misconception persists that substance misuse and addiction only affect the user. The harsh reality is that a worsening addiction will eventually harm the user’s loved ones; tragically, that includes domestic violence in many cases. 

Because excessive drinking and drug abuse alters brain activity, these substances can substantially change an addict’s personality and behavior. While intoxicated, someone might get irrationally angry or violent over seemingly minor issues, act out in unusual ways or blurt out uncharacteristically hurtful things they’d never say when sober. Partners and family members of substance abusers often say they no longer recognize the person their loved one has become. 

Victims of intimate partner abuse might also turn to drinking or drugs as a short-term respite from the pain and inner torment they feel. A physical or psychological dependence can often develop as a result, adding to the misery and hopelessness of the situation.  

Types of Domestic Violence

When you hear the phrase “domestic violence,” you might immediately picture an argument between a couple that escalates into one or both partners physically harming one another. While those incidents characterizing toxic relationships are sadly all too common, there are other forms of intimate partner abuse, and it’s crucial to be able to recognize them. 

  • Financial: One partner may withdraw a large amount of money from a joint account without telling the other, set unrealistically restrictive spending limits for the other person to follow or deny their spouse access to shared accounts. 
  • Verbal: Threatening to kill a partner, their children or their pets is one form of verbal abuse. Name-calling is another, in which the goal is to denigrate or embarrass the victim. Insults are also a common type of verbal abuse. 
  • Manipulation: Many addicts are dishonest or manipulative by nature because they are working to conceal the extent of their illness from others. A person living with addiction may come up with a variety of excuses and convincing lies to tell their loved ones in hopes that they’ll be able to continue drinking or using drugs with no repercussions.  
  • Stalking: Stalking is a form of harassment and control that intimidates the victim with unwanted attention. While some stalking behaviors – like sending gifts – might seem like romantic gestures, others are outright frightening. Stalking can take place either in person or online.

Are You Experiencing Intimate Abuse or Addiction?

You deserve to have a happy, well-adjusted relationship that benefits both partners mutually. If your partner is mistreating you, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE as soon as you can. Their advocates can advise you on how to get help.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse and have decided to break the cycle of addiction, Vista Taos Renewal Center is here for you. We provide holistic rehab services and a blend of evidence-based treatments that help adult men and women overcome substance abuse and co-occurring disorders in a compassionate environment. 

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