The connection between alcohol and domestic violence is long-established.
What about other drugs?
Many might guess there will be a link between drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine, and domestic abuse — and they would be right.
But what about opioids?
Some might be surprised to hear about the link between opioid addiction and interpersonal violence. Victims who live with a partner who is addicted are not. Research corroborates this link.
Opioids and Intimate Partner Violence
R. Stone and E.F. Rothman (in 2019) studied the link between opioid use and intimate partner violence (IPV).
They sought to understand how common opioid use was for both perpetrators and victims of IPV, and the prevalence of IPV among people who have used opioids. They found that IPV is frequent among people who use opioids, as compared to the general population.
Regarding victimization, they explain that empirical research provides at least two explanations for the co-occurrence of IPV victimization and actual substance abuse disorders (SUDs).
First, they note that victims may use substances to cope with the physical pain of IPV, which can include back pain, headaches, abdominal problems, gynecological problems, and even chronic disease.
Stone and Rothman (ibid.) also note that IPV victimization is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), recognizing that depression and anxiety each elevates risk for SUD.
In addition, they note that other possible explanations for the link between SUDs and IPV include the fact that the pharmacological effects of some types of substances may increase irritability and aggression, SUDs may create or worsen problems with impulse control, intoxication may create cognitive distortions and misperceptions about a partner’s behavior, and couples with one partner suffering from a SUD might be susceptible to higher levels of conflict about substance use, money, or related topics.
Stone and Rothman (supra) note that studying the link between opioids and IPV is challenging for several reasons, one of which is the small number of studies on opioid use among IPV perpetrators or survivors.
They also note that the majority of studies of IPV among people who have used opioids consist of individuals receiving methadone treatment, which might not be representative of all people with opioid use disorders.
And of course, there are different definitions regarding the scope of behavior classified as IPV. Nevertheless, Stone and Rothman (supra) note that results indicate that it is more likely than not that a woman in methadone treatment has been subjected to IPV victimization, probably within the past year.
They also note that a sizable percentage of both men and women in methadone treatment have reported perpetration IPV within the past year.
Opioid Dependance and Co-Parenting
Barbara C. Moore et al. (in 2011) studied the link between drug abuse and IPV within a sample of opioid-dependent fathers.
Specifically, they examined both the lifetime prevalence and recent frequency of IPV within coparenting relationships of 106 fathers who were enrolled in methadone treatment.
As compared with community controls, they found that the opioid-dependent fathers in their sample reported greater prevalence of physical, sexual, and psychological aggression directed at the mother of their youngest biological child over the course of their relationship, as well as during the previous year.
Interestingly, Moore et al. (ibid.) also found that opioid-dependent fathers reported being victimized in similar fashion.
The men in their study reported more frequent physical and sexual aggression directed at them by the mother of their youngest child both over the course of the relationship and over the previous year.
Healing Relationships and Families
These results indicate areas of potential intervention to reduce the risk of IPV between intimate partners and parents suffering from drug abuse disorders. Addressing both substance abuse and IPV risk factors can enhance relational safety, and pave a path to freedom from drug addiction.
This article was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.
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