Addiction has the power to control many aspects of one’s life. It can interfere with families, disrupt careers, and tamper with relationships. One dangerous way that substance abuse can affect relationships is through domestic violence.

How Addiction Contributes to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can take many forms. When you hear this term, you might envision someone physically harming their partner by slapping or beating them. This is one way that domestic violence can manifest. Abuse can also be emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial. Additionally, it can involve stalking. 

Domestic Violence Is About Enforcing a Power Dynamic

An abuser uses coercion through the aforementioned forms of violence to control their partner. This can occur between current or former partners, and it is also referred to as intimate partner violence. Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, although it is more common in women.  

It has been found that substance abuse is correlated with higher rates of domestic violence victimization. In fact, anywhere from 47-90% of women in addiction treatment report that they have experienced domestic violence at some point in their life. This also suggests that domestic violence can contribute to the development of substance abuse. 

Some people utilize substances to provide short-term relief and distraction from distressing or traumatic experiences. Being continually subjected to abuse can both deteriorate a person’s mental health and prevent them from seeking the necessary resources to address it. 

Substances Worsen the Need for Control

Furthermore, abuse can involve the use of substances. The abusive partner may utilize substances to gain control over the victim. Additionally, an abuser may use their victim’s substance abuse against them to indicate a lack of credibility. This can harm the victim’s relationship with family and friends, interfere with treatment from healthcare providers, and sabotage a case the victim is trying to make in the court setting. To make matters worse, a person is more easily controlled and harmed by these actions while they are struggling with substance use disorder or another mental health condition. 

Domestic violence can have lasting effects on a person. It can also impact children who were exposed to it. Children who witness violence in the home have a greater likelihood of developing substance abuse. In this way, domestic violence is a way of perpetuating substance abuse throughout generations

Risk Factors

While substance abuse can lead to someone becoming a victim of domestic violence, it can also increase the risk of becoming a perpetrator. Committing domestic violence is associated with the use of substances. It is also more common in communities where it is easy to access substances. 

Early intervention in substance abuse is one way to lessen the risk of becoming a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence. Other risk factors that can contribute to the development of domestic violence in a relationship include:

  • Being exposed to childhood abuse
  • Enforcement of gender roles
  • Financial instability
  • Living in an area with crime, poverty, unemployment, and a lack of opportunities
  • Residing in a community with low social cohesion
  • Social isolation

Keeping Yourself Safe

If you are in a relationship where domestic violence is occurring, it is important to seek safety. A relationship where you fear for the safety of yourself or your children or where you feel controlled, disrespected, and unempowered can be considered abusive. Maybe you find yourself thinking that it is not “that bad.” It is also possible that you feel like what is happening is your fault. You might still see the good in your partner and focus on that, or think that you can change them. 


These are all common barriers that keep individuals from ending abusive relationships. If substance abuse is involved, you might feel tempted to blame your partner’s actions on drugs and alcohol. While substance use can create a situation where violence is more likely, this is not an excuse. Your partner still has control over their behavior, and they should not mistreat you even if they are struggling with addiction. Additionally, if you are living with substance abuse, getting out of that situation can help you heal.

Have a Plan in Place

Even if you feel that you should leave, it might feel impossible. If you have time, breaking the process down into smaller steps can help. Having certain steps in place will make leaving more feasible if it needs to happen suddenly. 

Speaking with someone you trust can connect you to resources and support and help you develop a safety plan. For example, your friend might give you a safe place to stay, or your doctor might know of resources in the community. You can also reach out to your work’s human resources department or staff at your child’s school. 

Tips to Consider When Planning

The following considerations are important when creating a safety plan:

  • Establish a place where you will go when you leave
  • Find a safe person to contact in an emergency and establish a code word
  • Gather essential items like identification documents, insurance cards, financial records, and money
  • Leave your important items with a trusted individual or where your partner cannot access them
  • Seek information about restraining orders from your local family court
  • Use the Internet on a friend’s device or at a library computer to avoid being tracked
  • Have important phone numbers memorized in case your phone is taken


The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you while you plan to leave your partner. It can also help you identify shelters if you do not have someone to stay with. They can be reached 24/7 through chat on their website, by calling 1-800-799-7233, or by texting 88788.

Substance abuse can put your physical and mental health in danger. This is especially the case when domestic violence is occurring. Intervening promptly in substance abuse can help prevent becoming the perpetrator or victim of domestic violence and protect your family. Family-Centered Services was designed to help you and your family find freedom from the detrimental effects of addiction. Wherever you are in your journey, we have a variety of services that can meet your needs. We offer individual and family therapy, a Family Recovery Program, comprehensive case management, sober accountability, treatment placement consultation, and intervention education and preparation. Call (509) 991-5822 today to learn how we can help you.