Impact of Sexual and Domestic Violence on Substance Addiction

Last updated on

The causes of drug and alcohol addiction aren’t fully known, but could potentially be rooted in several factors including genetics, family history, mental health conditions, and environmental influence.

Sadly, sexual abuse and domestic violence are two factors that may contribute to a person choosing to use substances and may lead them to eventually seek treatment for their substance misuse.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Statistics

Domestic violence and sexual abuse impact people in all demographics. Regardless of the gender, race, or nationality of the victim, the trauma suffered can do long-lasting psychological harm and may be a cause of addiction.

According to various studies, victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) are 70% more likely to drink heavily than those who have not experienced IPV. Victims are also more likely to use marijuana.1 In addition to substance abuse, survivors may also experience mental health issues including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).2

Up to 50% of women seeking treatment for mental health and 25-50% of women in substance abuse treatment report IPV.3

Statistics compiled by RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) indicate victims are largely female, with 82 % of juvenile victims and 90% of adult victims being female.4 In the United States, around 35.6% of women have experienced stalking, physical violence, or sexual assault within their lifetime in connection to an intimate relationship.3

Despite the greater impact on women, men can also be the victim of physical and sexual violence, with 1 of every 10 rape victims being male.4 Almost 1 in 10 men have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.2

Impact of Sexual Abuse and Domestic Violence

People who have experienced sexual abuse and/or domestic violence may suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger, or suicidal ideations as a result.2

Ninety-four percent of women who have been raped experience symptoms of PTSD in the 2 weeks after the incident, while 30% still experience symptoms of PTSD 9 months post-incident.4

Some domestic and sexual abuse survivors may begin to use or increase their use of, drugs and alcohol as a way of escaping feelings and memories associated with abuse.2,5 People who have experienced sexual assault are 6 times more likely to use cocaine and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs than those who haven’t been assaulted.4

Addiction, Sexual Abuse, and Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, the repeated and compulsive of drugs and/or alcohol can lead to addiction, also known as a substance use disorder.8 While addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, it is also treatable.

Symptoms of Alcohol and Drug Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes SUDs with specific diagnostic criteria, and how a SUD presents in a person will vary. Diagnosis of a SUD is best done by a medical professional, but the following criteria may help you identify a potential SUD in yourself or others. If you or a loved one experience 2 or more of these criteria in a 12-month period, you may need to seek help for a SUD:6,9

  • Uncontrolled substance use
  • A need to increase the dose to achieve the same effect.
  • Withdrawal symptoms after not taking a dose
  • Participation in dangerous activities while under the influence (e.g. drunk driving)
  • Preoccupation with getting and using a substance
  • Continued use of drugs or alcohol despite the negative impacts on one’s life
  • Negligence of responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Legal or financial trouble related to the addiction (e.g., DUI tickets)
  • Problems in relationships because of substance use
  • Attempts to hide the signs of drug or alcohol use
  • Changes in appetite and appearance
  • A sudden gain or loss of weight
  • Unexplained and sudden mood changes or disorder
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes

People struggling with drug or alcohol addiction should seek help as soon as possible. If domestic or sexual violence has occurred, participating in an alcohol or drug treatment program at an addiction and domestic violence or sexual abuse rehab and recovery center may help a person recover.

Tips for Choosing an Addiction Treatment Center

Domestic violence and sexual abuse are sensitive subjects for many. Survivors often feel guilt or shame and may be reluctant to get treatment as it may bring back painful memories or triggers.5

Finding a rehab facility that specializes in or has specific programs to treat people who have experienced sexual violence may help a person feel more comfortable and lead to better treatment outcomes.

When looking for a treatment program for sexual abuse, domestic violence, and addiction, the most important aspect is that treatment is tailored to meet the individual’s needs. Additionally, you may want to ask the following questions:7

  • Do they address co-occurring mental health conditions?
  • Do they offer detox?
  • Do they treat special populations such as men, women, LGBTQ+, etc.?
  • What is the cost, do they accept insurance, and do they offer payment plans?
  • Where is it located?
  • Do they offer other amenities?
  • Do they offer medication?
  • Does the facility and staff hold accreditations or certifications?
  • Do they help with aftercare planning?

If you or a loved one is ready to seek treatment for a substance use disorder, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help 24/7. Call 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to speak with one of our caring admissions navigators who understand the struggles of addiction and can help you understand treatment options. We can also check your insurance for any of our AAC facilities so you can get into treatment today.

Paying for Rehab Treatment

Additional Resources on Drug and Alcohol Treatment


  1. Soper, R.G. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/AddictionAmerican Society of Addiction Medicine.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Preventing Intimate Partner Violence.
  3. Mason, R., O’Rinn, S.E. (2014). Co-Occurring intimate partner violence, mental health, and substance use problems: a scoping reviewGlob Health Action, 7.
  4. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (n.d.). Victims of Sexual Violence: Statistics.
  5. Illinois Department of Human Services. (2005). Addressing Substance Abuse in Domestic Violence Agencies.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2020). What is Substance Use Disorder?
  9. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Ready to get help? Insurance covers treatment.

Check My Coverage

We’re available 24/7. Call us now.

1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information

Ready to get help? Get help today.

Helpline Information