Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance Abuse Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comIt’s not uncommon to have both of these patterns in the same home. Domestic violence and substance abuse seem to go hand in hand for many families. Yet, there are clear reasons why many substance abuse treatment centers are not addressing domestic violence in their programs. And the opposite is true. There are reasons why domestic violence programs do not include substance abuse. Even though these patterns are frequently seen together, they are treated separately for the individuals involved.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence is a form of conflict that often happens between intimate partners. Often, there is an underlying fear that one partner uses to control the other. And there are many ways in which one partner can use fear to manipulate and control:

  • Physical abuse – hitting, slapping, kicking, or beating
  • Verbal abuse – frequent criticism, humiliation, mocking, name calling,  and yelling
  • Sexual violence – forcing sex, demanding sexual acts, degradation
  • Isolation – making it hard for a partner to see friends or family
  • Coercion – making the other partner feel guilty
  • Harassment – following or stalking, embarrassing the other partner in public
  • Economic control – not letting the other partner work, interfering with work
  • Abusing trust – lying, breaking promises, being unfaithful, withholding information
  • Making threats – threatening to harm a partner and children
  • Using intimidation – using physical size to intimidate, keeping weapons in the house
  • Emotional withholding – not expressing feelings, not giving compliments,
  • Destruction of property- destroying furniture, punching walls
  • Self destructive behavior – abusing drugs, driving recklessly, threatening self-harm

Alcohol Abuse

Regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for intimate partner violence. In fact, research has shown that a battering incident that is coupled with alcohol abuse may be more severe and result in greater injury. Furthermore, domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction frequently occur together, but no evidence suggests a casual relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence.

In 2002, the Department of Justice found that 36% of victims in domestic violence programs also had substance abuse problems. Other research has found that the risk of violence between intimate partners increases when both partners are abuse alcohol and drugs. And, the U.S. Department of Justice found that 61% of domestic violence offenders also have substance abuse problems.

Separating Treatments

It’s important to know that substance abuse treatment does not “cure” abusive behavior.  To help end violence in relationships, domestic violence programs focus on teaching about the cycle of abuse and how a violent relationship typically has one partner who uses fear to control the other partner. Although there is a causal relationship between drug and alcohol use and domestic violence, combining treatments for each may make the other ineffective.

In fact, there are many reasons for the absence of substance abuse treatment to include domestic violence services. First, domestic violence programs typically have limited resources and cannot afford to pay for the equipment, staff, and other resources needed to provide substance abuse treatment. Also, domestic violence programs typically focus on providing safety and shelter. Lastly, domestic violence programs fear that focusing on substance abuse treatment may exacerbate victim blaming among in those who have come to seek treatment.

When domestic violence programs were asked why they did not also provide substance abuse treatment:

  • 75% of programs said they did not have the financial resources.
  • 71% of programs said they did not have the staff resources.
  • 60% of programs said they did not have the experience to provide substance abuse treatment and deal with drug and alcohol problems effectively.

Despite these concerns and the potential ineffectiveness of drug treatment and domestic violence programs if the two were provided as one service, the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment is working towards bridging the gap between drug treatment and domestic violence programs. They are working towards linking domestic violence and substance abuse treatment programs by providing counseling, child care, substance abuse and mental health treatment, among other services, in one program. Furthermore, they are working towards creating inter-agency cooperation and systems on the state and local levels.

There is caution when combining substance abuse treatment with domestic violence programs. However, doing so may bring more healing and transformation in those who need it.


Messages sent through this form are confidential. Required fields are marked with (*).

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.