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Family Violence & Substance Abuse

By Mark Little ; Updated August 14, 2017

Substance abuse damages family structure by causing a breakdown of values and lowering inhibitions of the members. Family members of substance abusers are more likely to become victims of family violence than members of a non-abusing family. The dynamics of a family with substance abuse problems can take many forms. From parents that abuse drugs to children with substance abuse issues.

Family Violence Related to Substance Abuse

The connection of family violence to substance abuse occurs in several possible ways. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse reports substance abuse does not cause family violence nor does family violence lead to substance abuse. However, there are similarities between the two and the problems add to each other. A multitude of factors influence how a person will be affected by family violence, and whether that person will be susceptible to substance abuse and dependence. The connection between the two problems is strong enough to cause concern.

Factors And Connections

Factors connecting family violence and substance abuse relate to a person being victimized by a substance abuser or the victim turning to drugs because of abuse. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, family violence does not necessarily stop when the abuser stops abusing alcohol or other drugs. Using alcohol or other drugs to cope with the effects of family violence can lead to more problems, including drug dependency and increased vulnerability to violence. Family violence and substance abuse problems often require assistance beyond the family. Attempting to deal with one problem without addressing the other can lead to a false sense of security.

Effects on Children

The most profound effects of family violence and substance abuse appear in children. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence found that children of substance abusing parents are more likely to experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse than children in non-substance abusing households. Children who have experienced family violence are at higher risk for alcohol and other drug problems later in life. Evidence suggests that children who run away from violent homes are at risk of substance abuse.

Effects on Spouse

The effects of domestic violence compounded by substance abuse can increase the risk of serious injury or even death in family altercations. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for intimate partner violence. A battering incident that is coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater injury. Domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction frequently occur together but no evidence suggests a causal relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence. Alcoholism treatment does not "cure" abusive behavior.

Treatment Strategies

Treatment options for substance abuse and domestic violence are available. But addressing the two issues at the same time is difficult. The National Council on Domestic Violence reports that although there is no causal link between domestic violence and substance abuse, failure to deal with domestic violence in substance abuse programs or to deal with substance abuse in domestic violence programs interferes with the effectiveness of these programs. Many service providers recognize the correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence, but few domestic violence programs can offer adequate counseling or health services for substance abusers

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