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Alcohol and Domestic Abuse: What You Need To Know

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/15/2022

Alcohol is a substance that impairs judgment and increases risk-taking behavior. For this reason, alcohol and other drugs are known to impact domestic abuse and the statistics prove this. In fact, alcohol is known to influence a large percentage of crime, car accidents, and violence.

Based on alcohol’s relationship with domestic abuse, it’s important to consider the impact it has on domestic abuse. Additionally, alcohol is dangerous when it comes to domestic abuse because some people will not harm their spouses when sober. This makes it harder for spouses to leave abusive situations, especially if significant others are apologizing for bad behavior.

However, no amount of domestic abuse is acceptable. If you or a loved one is suffering from domestic abuse it’s important to seek out help immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 and calls are anonymous.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse refers to abuse that occurs within someone’s home or domestic family. This type of abuse typically occurs when one partner in a relationship maintains control over the partner, which can result in physical violence.

While the physical side of domestic abuse is well-known, abuse is not limited to physical harm.
Partners can be abused emotionally, financially, and even socially. Abusers often combine more than one type of abuse. For example, physical abuse can lead to social and financial abuse by limiting one partner’s contact with potential support systems.

Domestic abuse can also apply to anyone. People can be abused based on their gender, sex, religion, age, or sexual orientation. Abuse also leads to a power dynamic in a relationship that leaves the abused feeling helpless and not in control. When abusers limit their partner’s contact with other people it can also create a cycle.
An abuse cycle can look like many things and it depends on the relationship. Domestic abuse can look like a partner abusing their partner and then apologizing and providing them with gifts or affection after the abuse concludes. These cycles vary based on the relationship and it doesn’t always have to be intimate relationships. Domestic abuse can occur among roommates, friends, and children.

When drugs or alcohol are involved domestic abuse can become worse if someone is already an abuser. That said, some people with otherwise calm personalities can also become abusers when under the influence of alcohol. This occurs because alcohol acts as an inhibitor and can lead to less self-control.

How Does Alcohol Lead to Domestic Abuse?

Alcohol and domestic abuse are correlated but alcohol doesn’t always lead to domestic abuse. In cases where someone is abusive, alcohol can increase the risk of them acting out physically. Alcohol can also trigger abusive partners to become violent when drunk but act less violent when sober. Therefore, abusers often use alcohol as an excuse for domestic abuse.

Instead of alcohol leading to domestic abuse, it serves as a mechanism for abusers to act out. People who are under the influence of alcohol are less likely to control their emotions and reactions. When someone has many co-occurring disorders and alcohol addiction, being under the influence can create a compounding effect that leads to abusers acting out. However, people who are alcoholics are more likely to initiate domestic abuse because of the co-occurring disorders that come with alcoholism.

While there is a lot of data available surrounding alcohol and domestic abuse, more research is needed to determine if alcohol can make someone who’s not an abuser become an abuser. More often than not, alcohol causes someone to act out on abusive thoughts.

How Does Alcohol Affect Emotions?

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. So, it slows down nervous system function. Alcohol achieves this by interacting with chemicals in the brain like serotonin, which is known as the “happy” chemical. Serotonin can become depleted when alcohol is abused, which leads to depression and anxiety when someone is no longer under alcohol’s intoxicating effects.

While alcohol makes people feel uplifted in small amounts, large quantities of alcohol can cause many changes in the mind and body. Alcohol can lower someone’s inhibitions, increase their mood, and make them more social. On the other hand, alcohol also has negative effects on mood (in some cases).

When alcohol negatively interacts with someone’s emotions, it can lead to anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Additionally, alcohol can make some people more violent or increase the risk of them becoming violent. Alcohol can also impact emotional development in children under the age of 25, which can lead to problems with learning and memory. These issues can increase the risk of violent outbursts due to frustration.

Who is Most Likely to be Affected by Domestic Abuse?

While everyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, women account for most domestic abuse cases. In fact, women make up 90% of all domestic abuse cases.

That said, other factors cause women to have a higher risk of being abused in a domestic abuse situation. Some examples include a woman’s age, income, and pregnancy status. Women who are under the age of 25 are the most likely to be abused and the risk increases if low income and pregnancy are involved.

Men can also be on the receiving end of domestic abuse but it’s more common if the male is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Minority groups also experience higher rates of domestic abuse.

What are the Signs of an Alcohol Abuser?

Alcohol abuse has many warning signs. The warning signs depend on the individual and how long they’ve been abusing alcohol. People who abuse alcohol exhibit behavior that’s more reclusive, aggressive, anti-social, and impulsive. Alcohol abusers are also more likely to have less self-control or restraint. When these behaviors are mixed with an abusive partner, domestic abuse can become more frequent and violent.

Alcohol abusers also have mood changes that point to alcohol abuse. People who abuse alcohol can have rapid changes in mood and experience bouts of paranoia and anxiety. Alcohol abusers also struggle with loneliness, depression, and other mental health disorders. It’s for these reasons that people who abuse alcohol can be more likely to abuse their partners when under the influence.

Furthermore, there are physical signs of alcoholism. People who abuse alcohol can gain or lose weight, suffer from frequent headaches, and experience flushing. Alcoholics also have withdrawal symptoms that occur when alcohol is not consumed. These symptoms can increase irritability, lead to insomnia, and cause general discomfort.

What are the Statistics of Alcohol and Domestic Abuse?

Two-thirds of all domestic abuse cases are the result of alcohol intoxication. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that more than half of all domestic abuse cases involve alcohol around the world. Other global studies also suggest that the risk of domestic violence increases when one or both partners are drinking alcohol. If one or more partners is an alcoholic this risk also increases.
Other studies suggest that domestic abuse is not limited to intimate couples or spouses. Children can also be on the receiving end of domestic abuse from parents. Because parents are already in a position of power, it’s easier for parents to impose their will on children through physical, financial, and social abuse.

It’s also important to note how domestic abuse can trigger an alcohol dependency. Some studies suggest that people who are abused are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Ultimately, this can increase the rate of alcohol abuse in domestic abuse situations and create a larger addiction problem.

What is the Relationship Between Alcohol and Domestic Abuse?

Alcohol and domestic abuse have a relationship but alcohol does not cause domestic abuse. Instead, alcohol abuse can only increase the risk of an abuser becoming more abusive. Because domestic abuse is the result of other mental health issues, alcohol can only make domestic abuse worse. Alcohol can also not be a defense against domestic abuse. Someone who only abuses their partner or children when under the influence of alcohol is still an abuser, regardless of alcohol consumption.

Statistics also show that domestic abuse can lead to alcohol dependency. Many people who struggle with domestic abuse turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Additionally, domestic abuse can create a cycle where people are more likely to continue abusing alcohol, which can lead to more abusive behavior. These are the relationships between domestic abuse and alcohol. There can be domestic violence with or without alcohol, so alcohol is never the sole cause of the abuse.

Can Alcohol Be Used as a Defense for Domestic Abuse?

No, alcohol can’t be used as a defense for alcohol abuse. While alcohol can increase the risk of abuse in relationships, it’s rarely the sole cause. Instead, other underlying issues are the root cause of abuse. If underlying issues are not addressed before quitting alcohol, abuse can continue. For these reasons, alcohol is not a good defense against domestic abuse. In fact, it won’t hold up in most courts.