Substance Misuse

Domestic and sexual violence, problematic substance use and mental ill-health are three issues that often co-exist. And when they do, things can become complicated.
AVA (Against Violence and Abuse) have created a toolkit, available at the link below, and we approve its use by practitioners in Cambridgeshire

Substance use and DA – leaflet for social workers

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has developed a pocket guide for social and health care professionals who support someone affected by substance use and/or domestic abuse. The leaflet includes information about child safeguarding, working with victims and how to offer support.

Does Drug or Alcohol use CAUSE domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse cannot be blamed on drugs or alcohol consumption. Some perpetrators may have been drinking or taking drugs when they are abusive, but many have not.  Also they are not generally abusing everyone; they are able to control their behaviour so that it is only towards their partners or family members.  Some studies suggest that many perpetrators do not use drugs or alcohol excessively as they wish to remain “in control” at all times.

Drugs and alcohol are mind-altering substances, meaning that when it is consumed it can cause people to do or say things that they maybe would never do or say or amplify negative behaviours that already exist in a person.

In relation to domestic violence, alcohol & drugs may be considered an agitator rather than cause. It is commonly misunderstood that someone who acts aggressively, angrily, and/or violently when under the influence of alcohol doesn’t act that way when he or she is sober. Many people who struggle with their alcohol use continue abusive behaviour even when they are not drinking, and many people who are abusers drink alcohol. These behaviours are not a product of alcohol and the consumption of it, rather part of a different problem.

Abuse is a learned behaviour. Abuse is not something that occurs because the abuser has a problem with substances that is stopping them from gaining control over their behaviours. All abuse, including domestic violence, is a choice. For many, they choose to continue on with violent behaviour because it is what they have learned along the way.

The inclusion of drugs or alcohol into someone’s life can increase the potential for violent behaviours, however, alcohol itself does not directly cause domestic violence or other forms of abuse.  While a large number of police call outs for domestic abuse may involve an abuser under the influence of alcohol  that number is not indicative of the behaviours of those with an alcohol problem or those who are abusers that are not alcoholics. 

Domestic violence can be triggered by many things, however, alcohol is not one of them, as domestic violence is a learned, patterned behaviour.  However, the inhibitions with alcohol use, may increase the likelihood of serious harm.

Drug and Alcohol Use of Domestic Abuse Victims

Being the victim of trauma, such as domestic abuse, can make a person more likely to then experience mental health conditions and substance use disorders.

Alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism to numb the physical and/or emotional pain and trauma caused by domestic abuse. Intimate partner violence can be a major contributor to stress and anxiety, and stress is often a factor in drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

The journal the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reports on the well-known link between stress and the onset of problematic substance misuse. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that dampens anxiety and the body’s natural reaction to stress by inducing relaxation, slowing heart rate and blood pressure, and lowering body temperature. Alcohol can therefore temporarily relieve feelings of stress and become a form of self-medication for stressful events or emotions.

Experiencing domestic and sexual violence, mental ill-health and/or problematic substance use can leave survivors in a cycle of being vulnerable and victimised, which can lead to increased problems with their mental well-being and increased use of substances to cope.

For Drug or Alcohol support in Cambridgeshire – CGL, no referral required, very easy access, call 0300 555 0101 https://www.changegrowlive.org/drug-alcohol-service-cambridgeshire/cambridge

For Peterborough – Aspire – 01733 895 624, or 0800 111 4354