How Connected are Substance Abuse and CO Domestic Violence Charges?

Substance abuse and domestic violence are both unfortunate realties of modern society. Both are common, affecting thousands of Coloradans annually.

In fact, many times these two problems occur together, as both domestic violence victims and perpetrators are often substance abusers.

So, what is the link between the two things?

The short answer is that it’s complicated. However, research has shown that substance abusers are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. Moreover, these two problems have many common causative factors, meaning that it’s likely for domestic violence and substance abuse to occur in the same household.

Below, we examine the many links between substance abuse and domestic violence.

Substance Abusers Are More Likely to Become Domestic Violence Victims

Many studies have shown that victims of domestic violence are much more likely to be substance abusers. There are a few explanations for this link:

  • Substance abuse is often associated with, and may exacerbate, mental illness. This makes victims more vulnerable to the manipulative tactics of an abuser.
  • Substance abuse may impair judgment, causing the victim to exercise poor judgement and place themselves at risk for domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • Victims of domestic abuse often begin abusing drugs or alcohol to cope with the pain of the abusive relationship.

In addition to the link between domestic violence victimization and substance use, domestic violence cases also become more complicated when the victim is intoxicated at the time of the assault. The victim may not remember crucial details of the domestic assault, or may blame themselves for being intoxicated and decide not to report the attack.

How Substance Abusers are More Likely to Become Perpetrators

The links between criminality and drug abuse are well-known. Drug abusers are especially likely to commit violent crimes, including domestic violence.

Why is this?

There are several factors that may make drug users more likely to commit domestic violence:

  • Intoxication or addiction to certain substances may provoke violent, irrational, and paranoid behavior
  • Intoxication may also impair inhibitions, or give the abuser an excuse for violent behavior
  • Substance abuse is linked to mental illness, which may provoke domestic abuse or violence

Common Factors for Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence

Additionally, many factors trigger both substance abuse and domestic violence. The fact that these two problems have common roots is yet another reason that they are likely to occur together.

Common roots for substance abuse and domestic violence include:

  • Homelessness or housing insecurity. Homelessness or otherwise being housing-insecure makes substance abuse and domestic violence victimization more likely.
  • Studies have shown that incarceration increases criminal behavior, including substance abuse and domestic violence. Moreover, incarceration of a family member places strain on family relationships, making domestic abuse more likely.
  • Many women engage in prostitution to support a drug habit, and non-users are more likely to begin using drugs after engaging in prostitution. Moreover, some women are coerced into prostitution by their abusers.
  • Mental illness. Many people with mental illness begin abusing drugs or alcohol to “self-medicate.” Mental illness can also make people more prone to victimization or commission of domestic abuse.
  • Inter-family dependence problems. Having an abusive family during childhood makes people more likely to become abusers, or to fall victim to domestic violence. Abused children are also more likely to turn to drugs.
  • Social deprivation. Depression and isolation often lead to aggression and substance abuse.

Colorado Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

The take-home message here?

It’s clear that the links between domestic violence and substance abuse are deep and complex. Recognizing this link could lead to improved treatment and prevention of both problems.


About the Author: 

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.