Substance Use as a Risk for Interpersonal Violence
• October 2022 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Executive Director’s Message: Substance Use as a Risk for Interpersonal Violence
As we learned during the now infamous Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, substance use is often present in relationships where interpersonal violence (IPV) occurs. And in many such relationships, both the perpetrator and the victim drink and use drugs. Studies have found that:
- Between 25% and 50% of people who commit domestic violence have substance use problems
- Victims of domestic violence are likely to cope with distress by using substances
- About 1 in 3 men experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime
- Rates of domestic violence among LGBTQ+ couples are high at approximately 25%
- Like Johnny Depp, many victims of IPV were raised in families where violence and substance use occurred.
- 15% of children experience IPV, but those who live in poverty are five times more likely to be victims of abuse
IPV can occur in any type of relationship, between spouses or dating partners, between family members, and in both heterosexual and LGBTQ+ relationships. Teens also experience interpersonal violence. PV. In fact, one survey found that around 5 million men and 11 million women who experienced IPV said that it began during their teen years.
Certain substances in particular, including alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine, can cause short- and long-term effects, such as aggression, that lead to violence, and people who are under the influence have difficulty regulating their emotions. When faced with a trigger, substance users can react with violence to something that they might ordinarily be able to manage. Also, over time, substance use also causes changes to our brain that affect emotion regulation, specifically the amygdala – the part of our brain that manages anxiety and irritability.
Likewise, people who experience domestic violence often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate negative emotional states, like anxiety and depression. Drugs and alcohol, unfortunately, provide a way to escape these feelings.
During Domestic Violence Awareness month this October, if you know someone who needs help with recovery and IPV, call L.A. CADA at (562) 906-2676.
“It’s funny you asked about Johnny Depp and domestic violence. Did you know he’s the reason I got into the program? Yeah, I never saw a man ever say he was abused by a woman. I thought it was just me. So, I always liked Johnny Depp. He’s an American Indian like me and he’s good in his movies. But, Johnny Depp is different than me, he’s rich and famous. Plays guitar too. When I saw him on TV saying he used drugs and that his woman was beating on him, it gave me courage to admit it myself. It’s not just me!! This movie star was also abused like I was. Probably other men too. So, in treatment you learn a lot about yourself and how your past plays a big part in drug use. And also your family. My dad beat on my mom and she just took it. She always said, ‘where am I gonna go”? Normal,, right? Plus I had the shame of being a man getting beat on by a woman. But, in treatment, I learned to lose the shame and use the tools of recovery. I really hope Johnny ends up in recovery too.”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN:
Treating Men with Issues of Abuse
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a common and devastating problem affecting the health of women, children, and men. Yet, most research focuses on the effects of IPV on women and children. Less is known about treating men with IPV.
For everyone, IPV involves physical, sexual, emotional, and/or financial acts of violence. It also refers to a “power and control” dynamic associated with an abusive relationship. Measurement of the prevalence of IPV involves self-report or partner report of these experiences – experiences that are associated with shame, guilt, social stigma, painful emotions, and many adverse consequences. As a result, IPV often goes unreported. Only 7.6% of men report having been physically and/or otherwise abused by an intimate partner at some point in their adult lives.
The few studies that exist show that physical and psychological abuse of m303 is associated with overall self-report of “poor” health. IPV victimization in men was specifically associated with depressive symptoms, heavy alcohol use, “therapeutic” drug use, recreational drug use, a history of being injured, as well as chronic disease.
When treating men with issues of IPV, healthcare providers must first understand the different etiology or pathway to violence in a man’s relationship, as well as specific criminogenic needs and co-occurring conditions, such as trauma. Substance use in particular often goes undiagnosed among male victims. Treatment providers must screen men for both alcohol/drug use and the interaction dynamics between their substance use and IPV. More specifically, helping interventions must address all personal, social, and contextual needs beyond SUD and violence perpetration. Remember that men face difficulty in acknowledging domestic violence against them, as well as the vulnerability of going to therapy. But being vulnerable is a small price to pay to regain self-esteem and heal significant psychological wounds resulting from domestic violence and trauma.
Learn more about: IPV and Men