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Addiction and Violence

All too often, addiction and violence go hand in hand.  Addiction to drugs and alcohol creates very intense and damaging physical and mental conditions in those who take part in these types of activities and engagements.  The sad truth here is that addiction changes people, and individuals who would normally have absolutely nothing to do with violence or dangerous activities suddenly become very different, quite mentally estranged, and physically dangerous, and violent.

When one becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol one will experience significant changes in one’s mental well-being, personality, body, psychical health, mental health, and day-to-day priorities and activities that he or she engages in.  The calmest of people can become violent.  The kindest of people can become mean.  The truest of individuals can become false.  The most honest of friends can become shady and untrustworthy.  Abusing drugs and alcohol takes all of the worst characteristics of a person and highlights them while also taking all of the kindest and best characteristics of a person and subduing them and suppressing them.

Abusing drugs and alcohol alters different chemicals and nervous structures in the human brain.  It changes personality.  It alters perspective and priorities.  It adjusts and badly damages dopamine levels, serotonin levels, and endorphin levels.  All of this spikes anger, rage, and the potential violence.  People who abuse drugs and alcohol have a strong tendency to jump to conclusions and to get enraged far more easily than those who do not.  For these reasons, they must be treated and approached a little differently than others.

Facts and Statistics: Just How Intricately Drug and Alcohol Abuse are Related to Violence

Much recent study, research, and survey has gone into finding out just how closely linked drug and alcohol abuse and violence is.  Some of the findings have been published here to provide context and insight as to just how serious and prevalent these issues are:

• The use of drugs or alcohol by one or both of the participants in substance abuse. In up to half of all cases, alcohol is involved. Even when the batterer is sober, if he (or she) is an alcoholic, the abuse is (1) much more likely to occur and (2) likely to be much more violent. Alcoholics, even when sober, are more likely to commit spousal or partner abuse. The Department of Justice states that about 61 percent of domestic violence offenders also have problems with alcohol or drug abuse.

• Often, both parties are alcoholics or drug users. Sometimes, only the victim is a substance abuser. In such cases, the batterer may be likely to claim that violence is employed in an attempt to deal with the substance-abusing person. When a victim is abusing substances instead of or in addition to their partner, the situation becomes all the more dangerous.

• In a Memphis study of nighttime arrests, it was shown that, of the 72 victims studied, 42 percent of the victims were using drugs or alcohol on the day they were assaulted; 15 percent had used cocaine. Most had previously been victims of the same assailant. About 92 percent of the assailants were using drugs or alcohol, and 67 percent of them had used alcohol and cocaine in combination. Nearly half the assailants had used drugs or alcohol each day for the past month. About 9 percent had received treatment or were receiving treatment for substance abuse.

• Regular alcohol abuse is one of the leading risk factors for partner violence (between spouses or partners).  Furthermore, when there is a battering incident coupled with alcohol abuse, the battering may be more severe and result in greater injury to the victim or victims.

• Studies of alcoholic and alcohol addicted women indicate that they are more likely to report they’ve had childhood physical and emotional abuse than women who are nonalcoholic.  In fact, women who have been abused are actually 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and nine times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been abused.

• Relative to the type of childhood abuse suffered on the part of these individuals, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 69% of women being treated for substance abuse reported they were sexually abused as children.  Treatment for alcoholism does not cure abusive behavior, that has to be handled and addressed separately.

• The Department of Justice found in 2002 that 36% of victims in domestic violence programs also had problems with substance abuse.  According to a significant majority of domestic violence program directors (51%), a woman’s use of alcohol can be a barrier to her being able to leave a violent relationship with a spouse or partner.  In fact, an even greater percentage (87%) of domestic violence program directors agree with the statement that the risk of intimate partner violence increases when both partners abuse drugs or alcohol.

What Happens When One Abuses Drugs and Alcohol

Abusing drugs and alcohol both can reduce inhibitions and diminish self-control over how one displays one’s emotions, which may lead some Americans to violence because they cannot cope with their inner turmoil at all.  Additionally, an addiction can slow a user’s reflexes, increase her emotional outbursts and make it impossible for him or her to make good decisions about his or her behavior in the heat of the moment. These problems can easily lead to violence on the part of the user and abuser, but many drug addicts will still avoid violent tendencies if they can.  Many do not though, and these are the ones that need to be helped.

Those with a history of child abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves when they are under the influence of a substance to one degree or another. Substance abuse can release pent up emotions and fears, which can encourage violence against people that addicts love the most. In other words, drug abuse can easily lead people to adhere to their violent tendencies or to react to past troubles and worries and issues.  This is why rehabilitation for addiction is so important and crucial.  With proper rehabilitation, it is actually possible to end the vicious cycle of addiction and violence.

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