Substance Abuse and the Intimate Partner Assault of Women

There are numerous reasons why substance abuse has emerged as a major concern in the United States. The widespread distribution and use of cocaine among all social classes and the introduction of crack cocaine during the 1980s clearly have alarmed our society.Illicit drug use and the associated drug trade are major contributors to crime and violence. Injection of illicit drugs is a major source of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the United States.The various forms of substance abuse have other serious health consequences that contribute to the current cost crisis in the nation’s health care system. Finally, alcohol and drug dependency are frequently implicated in individual and family dysfunction (Magueraz, 1994).Substance abuse has been associated with aggression and violence, although the reasons for the association are not always clear.

Four different reasons for the relationship between substance abuse and aggressive behavior are as follows: Crimes may be committed to get drugs or to get the resources needed to purchase drugs; violence is often a means of resolving disputes in the illegal drug trade; violence and drug use both may result from the same factors, such as high sensation-seeking in drug users; and drugs can increase the likelihood of violence because of their direct effects on the user (Hoaken, 2004).In addition, individuals who consume psychoactive substances are more likely to engage in violence because intoxication facilitates violence, which may be mediated through the psychopharmacologic effects of drugs on cognitive processing or the expectancies associated with intoxication (Easton, 2006).Much of the violence reported in the literature involves intimate partner violence (IPV) committed by men toward women, a pervasive problem in a significant proportion of U.S. families (Easton, 2006).Co-incidence of Substance Abuse and the Intimate Partner Assault of WomenIntimate partner violence (IPV) is any form of abuse may it be physical, sexual or psychological which is either threatened or carried out by an individual on his or her partner, whether the relationship is an informal dating, committed in marriage or civil partnership. Incidents of physical and sexual assault and stalking are a continual and rising public health issue, affecting over five million American women every year (Teahan, 2008).Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a major public health concern.

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Various studies including that of Caroline Easton have found substance abuse to co-occur in 40% to 60% of IPV incidents. Several lines of evidence suggest that substance use plays a facilitative role in IPV by precipitating or exacerbating violence. Similar studies suggest the promise of interventions that target substance use in men who have histories of IPV (Easton, 2006).It is known that many IPV episodes involve alcohol or drug consumption.

Studies found that over 20% of males were drinking prior to the most recent and severe act of violence.Physical violence was 11 times more likely to be found on days of heavy drug use. Victims of IPV report that the offender had been drinking or using illicit drugs and that offenders of IPV typically use alcohol and have a dual problem with drugs. In addition, the strong relationship between substance use and perpetration of IPV has been found in primary health care settings, family practice clinics, prenatal clinics and rural health clinics.The relationship between substance abuse and IPV has also been observed to be quite prevalent among individuals presenting at psychiatric settings and substance abuse treatment facilities (Easton, 2006).Besides the statistical association between alcohol and physical abuse, families where substance abuse occurs and families where woman abuse occurs often share characteristics: intergenerational transmission of the problem, frequent crisis states, the abuser blaming the partner for his behavior, the abuser forgetting details of the episode, isolation of the non-abusive partner, retarded emotional development in the family, impulsiveness and low self-esteem among other family members, loss of control used as a coping mechanism, and a short-term payoff in tension reduction (Bennett, 1995).Use of drugs other than alcohol has a stronger association with woman abuse than alcohol use alone. In particular, severity of violence may be greater among non-alcohol drug abusers than among alcohol-only abusers.

Several factors account for this observation, including direct pharmacological effects, arguments over drug use and procurement efforts, and increased substance abuse as a result of domestic violence.Use of illicit drugs also increases exposure to criminality, which increases the likelihood of violence. In one study of inpatient addicts, even though marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogen use correlated with frequency of woman abuse, these relationships disappeared when history of arrest was considered (Bennett, 1995).Most personality studies elicit one cluster of very violent, drug-abusing, antisocial batterers. Antisocial personality orientation is often associated with both violent behavior and substance abuse. About 75 percent of antisocial adults abuse alcohol and 49 percent of male inpatient alcoholics meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder as defined by the DSM-III (American Psychiatric Association, 1980) (Bennett, 1994).A study by Jaffe, Babor and Fishbein (1988) found that history of childhood aggression before the age of twelve holds a better predictor of violent behavior when drinking than a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder (cited in Bennett, 1994).Three temperament deviations are linked to substance abuse vulnerability: hyper-activity, emotionality and sensitivity to distress, and disinhibited sociability (Tarter, 1988).

Moreover, childhood aggression increases in families where there is domestic assault of the mother, but establishing the causal direction is not as clear as many believe.The interaction of inherited temperaments, experience of violence, and other goodness-of-fit variables probably explains more about the SAWA (Substance Abuse Woman Abuse) relationship than aggregate constructs like personality and personality disorder (Bennett, 1994).ReferencesBennett, L. W. (1995, November). Substance abuse ; the domestic assault of women. Social Work, Vol. 40 (6), p.

760.Chartas, N. D.

, Culbreth, J. K. (2001).

Counselor treatment of coexisting domestic violence ; substance abuse: A qualitative study. Journal of Addictions ; Offender Counseling, Vol. 22 (1), p. 2.Coker, A. L., Flerx, V. C.

, Smith, P. H., Whitaker, D. J.,Fadden, M. K.

, ; Williams, M. (2007, July). Partner violence screening in rural health care clinics.

American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 97(7), p. 1319-1325.Easton, C.

(2006, January 1). The role of substance abuse in intimate partner violence. Psychiatric Times, 23 (1), p. 25.