Domestic Abuse and Addiction What You Need to Know

Man threatening Violence on Wife and Daughter

We have talked before about how it is essential for loved ones of addicts to protect themselves and for those recovering from addiction to make choices that don't put them at risk of a relapse. Addicts can cause emotional, financial, and physical harm. But perhaps one of the most shocking is coercive or forced use of a substance by a partner or loved one.

While this may sound shocking and slightly unbelievable for some, the reality is it does happen. You might think this only happens in extreme cases, but it is more common than you think. A recent study conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that 43% of those who took the survey reported some version of this conduct in their domestic abuse case — ranging from forced or coercive drug use to sabotaging attempts at addiction recovery. This is also done to keep a partner from leaving. In cases like this, the spouse who is being abusive will threaten to report to the authorities their substance abuse if they go or do anything the abusive spouse deems undesirable.

The other issue is that among those who took the survey, 25% reported using substances to help numb the pain of their abuse and that this continued the cycle since they were then afraid to ask authorities for help because they were struggling with substance abuse. This makes the condition difficult to study as those trapped in this type of situation fear for their safety since many of the threats from the abusive party are done to keep them “under control.” Those abused feel they must continue to listen to their abuser and keep quiet about the abuse which is one of the main reasons victims are threatened and trapped in a no win situation.

This level of manipulation is part of the reason there have not been many studies about substance abuse coercion. Now when we talk about this issue, there are two separate groups. On the one hand, we have those already abusive who add substance abuse into an already tragic situation. On the other hand, we have drugged relationships that often turn volatile and give rise to domestic abuse.

For those trying to help someone attempting recovery from substance abuse, this is an essential factor to keep in mind. Recovery at home can be a near-impossible task to begin with, and if there is this sort of a relationship involved, it will be even harder.

One of the first steps to recovery for your loved one may be getting them away from their spouses. Though this may prove difficult as many times, blackmail and threats may be hanging over your loved one's head, put in place by their abuser to keep them from leaving. Your best bet is to give your loved one a safe space to tell you what's going on and promise them you will not make moves until there is a clear plan on how to get them out of the situation.