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Family Violence And Addiction

Addiction hurts families and for as many as 60 percent of families it also brings violence.[1] When an addict turns against his family with physical violence and verbal accusations, it brings suffering that lasts generations. Plus, violence indicates an addict suffers from a more severe addiction and mental health problems that need immediate treatment to ensure everyone’s safety.

Violence Easily Dismissed By The Drug User

Family violence is a damaging and dangerous result of drug addiction for some people.

Man's fist threatening womanSubstance users already deflect personal responsibility because of the way addiction affects their thinking and judgment. Such addiction thinking creates an alternate reality in their mind. Nearly anything they do in the name of their addiction is justified or easily excused. Money troubles, flaking out on promises, taking dangerous risks – it’s all under control and nobody else’s business.[2]

The same rules apply when a drug addict or alcoholic becomes violent. He lashes out, puts someone in her place, makes his position of control very clear or shows his dislike for something in a powerful destructive way. Because addictive thinking excuses his actions, nothing seems wrong with his behavior.

Someone who is violent, or becomes more violent, while using drugs or alcohol often has a more serious addiction and suffers with mental health disorders.[3]

People who suffer with addiction for many years and/or use multiple substances have severe addictions. They also experience more negative consequences from drug use, such as trouble maintaining relationships, problems with finances and maintaining employment and more encounters with the legal system.[4]

Studies also associate serious addictions with higher rates of violence among addicted women. Despite the stereotype of men committing intimate partner violence against women, newer studies show a greater number of addicted women being violent against partners compared to men. Women also are more susceptible to developing a serious addiction because it takes lower amounts of a substance to get them high and they metabolize substances at a slower rate.

While addicted women commit domestic violence, women in general are more likely to be the victim of violence. United States Bureau of Justice Statistics shows 85 percent of domestic violence victims are female. Substances are involved in an estimated 40 percent to 60 percent of domestic violence incidents.

Everyone In Family Affected By Violent Addict or Alcoholic

Scared girl in shadow of alcoholic fatherChildren, spouses, partners, even adult siblings or parents face the brunt of an addict’s violent nature. The addict desperately needs a sense of being in control or feeling powerful. While the need for control is normal and there are healthy ways to express it, addicts have impaired thinking. An addict’s mind is tuned into her emotions and skewed addiction logic, so violence is the natural outcome of overpowered emotions and low self-control.

In essence, violent behavior from an addict is an attempt to correct the imbalance. Since the addict is poorly equipped to deal with daily life and others, his attempts to make things better often make things worse. He strikes out against people he needs in his life as a way to feel better about how little control he has over his own behavior.

Violence Often Passed Through Generations

In many cases, family violence is displayed from generation to generation. This happens with or without an addiction, but addictions add another level of complexity and distance from personal responsibility.

The addict may be heavily under the influence of substances when committing violent acts, having few recollections of what he did. This makes it hard for him to adequately apologize or right the wrongs he committed. For example, someone may strongly minimize marital arguments, thinking he only yelled at his spouse a few times. Children who grow up in an abusive family learn unhealthy ways to cope, especially if it’s not made clear that physical and emotional violence is wrong.[5]

Family Violence Dangerous For All

Family violence is a serious consequence of drug and alcohol addiction. Family members may feel it’s easier to ignore the situation because they fear calling attention to it will make things worse. If you are a family member of a violent drug addict or alcoholic, do everything you can to keep yourself safe. Hopefully, your loved one will realize that drug treatment is the only way to get their family life back.


[1] Soper, Richard G. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction. American Society of Addiction Medicine magazine. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.asam.org/magazine/read/article/2014/10/06/intimate-partner-violence-and-co-occurring-substance-abuse-addiction.

[2] Mercer, Delinda. (2000). Description of an Addiction Counseling Approach. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/.

[3] Arteaga, Alfonso; López-Goñi, José J.; & Fernández-Montalvo, Javier. (2015). Differential profiles of drug-addicted patients according to gender and the perpetration of intimate partner violence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871615003890.

[4] NIDA (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics. Media Guide. Retrieved Apr. 23, 2017, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide

[5] Dayton, Tian. (2012). Growing Up With Toxic Stress or Addiction and Its Long-Term Impact. The Huffington Post. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-tian-dayton/toxic-stress_b_2109402.html.