How Are People With Substance Use Disorder Affected By Violence?

Substance use disorder is the umbrella term that doctors use to describe any form of drug or alcohol use that results in diagnosable symptoms of substance abuse or substance addiction. In a study published in January 2014 in the journal Addictive Behaviors, researchers from five U.S. institutions investigated the connection between receiving a substance use disorder diagnosis and being at risk for either perpetrating or suffering acts of intimate partner violence or non-partner violence. These researchers concluded that the factors that make a person with substance-related problems more likely to commit violence differ somewhat from the factors that make a person with substance-related problems more likely to experience violence.

The Basics Of Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder belongs to a larger group of mental health problems called substance-related and addictive disorders. The condition is defined by either of two things: a chemical dependence on drugs or alcohol that leads to a significantly dysfunctional lifestyle (i.e., substance addiction) or a significantly dysfunctional drug- or alcohol-related lifestyle that does not involve chemical dependence (i.e., substance abuse). Most people affected by substance-related issues actually have overlapping symptoms that fit just as well in the context of addiction as they do in the context of non-addicted abuse. For this reason, the American Psychiatric Association established substance use disorder in May 2013 as a unified diagnosis for all symptoms of dysfunction related to drug or alcohol intake.

What Is The Difference Between Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Violence?

How Are People With Substance Use Disorder Affected By ViolenceIntimate partner violence is a term that doctors, public health officials and the criminal justice system use to describe an extensive range of violent acts that can take place between married people or any other individuals involved in an intimate relationship. While most people likely think of violence only as the act of actually striking someone or otherwise physically harming someone, the definition for intimate partner violence also includes acts of emotional or psychological violence and direct or implied threats to cause physical harm. The definition of intimate partner violence also specifically includes violent or coercive acts of a sexual nature. Non-partner violence differs from intimate partner violence mostly because it does not take place between people linked by a relationship. The same acts that qualify as physical violence, sexual violence, emotional/psychological violence, threats or coercion when they take place between intimate partners still qualify as such when they take place between acquainted non-partners or strangers.

The Link Between Violence and Substance Use Disorder

In the study published in Addictive Behaviors, researchers from the University of Michigan, Bowling Green State University, Briar Cliff University, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Department of Veterans Affairs investigated the frequency of violent acts among people affected by substance use disorder. In addition, they investigated the underlying factors that make people with serious substance-related problems susceptible to either participation in violence or violence victimization. They conducted their work with information gathered from 1,441 adults identified as being affected by substance use disorder while receiving treatment in emergency rooms located in large urban centers. These individuals ranged in age from 19 to 60; some of them were affected by alcohol-related problems, while others were users of drugs such as marijuana, opioids and/or cocaine or other stimulants.

Some of the study participants were identified as perpetrators of violence, while others were identified as victims of violence. The researchers broke each of these groups down into four subgroups: people who denied any occurrence of violence, people involved in intimate partner violence, people involved in non-partner violence and people involved in both intimate partner violence and non-partner violence.

Almost 47 percent of the participants identified as perpetrators denied involvement in violence. Roughly 17 percent of this group admitted participation in intimate partner violence, while another 20 percent admitted involvement in non-partner violence. In addition, almost 16 percent of those identified as perpetrators admitted involvement in both intimate partner violence and non-partner violence. Roughly 42 percent of the participants identified as victims of violence denied any involvement in violence. Almost 19 percent of this group admitted to being exposed to intimate partner violence, while another 20 percent admitted exposure to non-partner violence. Almost 18 percent of the participants identified as victims of violence admitted exposure to both intimate partner violence and non-partner violence.

What Are The Underlying Factors Of Partner Violence?

The researchers concluded that several factors increase the chances that a person with substance use disorders will commit acts of intimate partner violence or non-partner violence. These factors include having problems related to cocaine or alcohol use, being relatively young, being unmarried and having a tendency to emphasize the importance of receiving treatment for psychological issues. The researchers also uncovered several factors that increase the chances that a person with substance use disorders will be victimized by intimate partner violence or non-partner violence. These factors include having problems related to alcohol use, being relatively young, being unmarried and having a tendency to emphasize the importance of receiving treatment for social issues and family issues.

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