The Relationship between Addiction, Alcoholism and Violence

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The Relationship between Addiction, Alcoholism and Violence

17 September, 2019Articles, News

Drug and alcohol abuse have complicated effects on the human mind and behaviour. As far back as 1995, the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved described the relationship between substance abuse and violence as a case of “cause and consequence.” The connection between drug addiction, alcoholism, and violence crosses many thresholds (individual psychology, public health, and domestic violence, to name a few), and is vitally important in understanding the scope of how controlled substances can affect people.


The correlation between substance abuse and violent behaviour has been well documented. For example, the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment noted that more than 75 percent of people who begin treatment for drug addiction report having performed various acts of violence, including (but not limited to) mugging, physical assault, and using a weapon to attack another person. Examining gender differences, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that before seeking treatment for substance abuse, the rate of violent acts was as high as 72 percent among men and 50 percent among women. People enrolling in treatment were often referred by family members because of violent behaviour carried out while under the influence.

Why is there a link between alcohol abuse and violence? In 2010, Live Science reported the results of a Scandinavian study that found the risk for violent behaviour increases with intoxication, but more so among individuals who are prone to suppressing their feelings of anger while they are sober. Testing people who reported that they were prone to burying their angry feelings, researchers observed a 5 percent increase in violent behaviour that followed a 10 percent increase in drinking to the point of getting drunk. People who didn’t work out their anger were more likely to get drunk, and that state of drunkenness was connected to a rise in the chance of engaging in violent behaviour. People who did not suppress their angry feelings did not show a similar association.

The researchers noted that “only a tiny fraction of all drinking events involve violence,” but the likelihood of being violent while drinking appeared to be based on how well people who drink can deal with their anger while they’re sober. Since drinking alcohol can lower inhibitions, compel risky behaviour, and rob people of their self-control, an individual with unreleased rage can act out when sufficiently intoxicated.


Of all the forms of violence influenced by drug addiction or alcoholism, violence toward a domestic partner may be one of the most concerning. The U.S. Department of Justice explains that the abuse in a domestic arrangement is not limited to physical acts, such as hitting, punching, slapping or pulling hair; “domestic violence,” as a legal term, can also cover sexual abuse (rape, marital rape, treating a partner in a sexually abusive and demeaning way, and molestation), emotional abuse (intentional and malicious attacks on a partner’s self-worth), and psychological abuse (controlling the partner, blackmail, threatening harm to children, violence toward pets, and intimidation).

As explained by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, violence against an intimate partner can also include stalking, social isolation (not letting an intimate partner leave the house, for example), and depriving them of resources and necessities. Various studies have identified substance abuse as a factor in 40-60 percent of incidents of domestic violence, either in precipitating the abuse or exacerbating it.

Some research has indicated that spousal abuse could be a predictor of the development of a drug addiction. Further to that point, women in abusive relationships often report that their abusive partner coerced them into engaging in alcohol and drug consumption. The American Journal of Public Health noted that substance abuse tends to be more prevalent among women who suffer domestic abuse, even among pregnant women who were victims of violence. Such is the extent of the influence of drugs and alcohol on violence that on days when substance abuse occurred- physical violence was 11 times more likely to take place.

Other research showed that more than 20 percent of male perpetrators of intimate partner abuse had used alcohol or drugs immediately before the most recent incidents of violence. Many studies have found a strong connection between excessive alcohol use and the action of partner violence, although there is not yet a consensus on the cause and effect – whether the drinking causes such men to be violent or whether the alcohol abuse is used as a way to excuse (or justify) the violence.

Unsurprisingly, the victims of intimate partner violence tend to be mostly female – 85 percent, according to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. Compared to men, women have a 5-8 times higher chance of being abused by an intimate partner. Most of the partner abuse takes place in the home.

Violence fuelled by drug and alcohol consumption also takes place in same-sex relationships. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered individuals have higher rates of substance abuse than the general population, often due to the prejudice that many of them face in their lives, and this may manifest in violence carried out within their domestic unions.

If you or a loved one needs help with addiction or alcholism, contact us for a consultation.


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