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The Connection Between Substance Use and Partner Abuse

The Connection Between Substance Use and Partner Abuse

The Connection Between Substance Use and Partner Abuse

When a partner or spouse gets violent, the physical damage is often visible and obvious. More difficult to detect, however, are the emotional wounds inflicted on the victim, with mental health disorders often resulting from trauma suffered in the home from a spouse.

A new report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research indicates that of the 3.5 million California residents who indicated that they were the victim of intimate partner violence (IPV), approximately 594,000 reported that they also experienced symptoms of serious psychological distress, including problems with anxiety and depression. Those who are victims of IPV are three times as likely to report serious psychological distress in the past year when compared with adults not exposed to this type of violence.

Those who identified themselves as victims of IPV were also more likely than non-victims to seek mental health care and to cope through binge drinking. The study’s lead author, Elaine Zahnd, Ph.D., explained that the violence does “double damage,” causing not only physical problems but also an emotional scar that can lead to the use of alcohol or drugs to dull the pain.

The findings of the report show that women were twice as likely as men to be victims of IPV (20.5 percent versus 9.1 percent) and both male and female victims were likely to report serious psychological distress.

Nearly half of all IPV victims (47.6 percent) reported that their partner or spouse seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the most recent attack. In addition, approximately one-third of those who reported being an IPV victim also requested help for a mental or emotional problem or an alcohol or drug problem. In comparison, only 12.6 percent of non-victims reported needing help with a mental problem.

Victims of IPV were significantly more likely than non-victims to report needing to see their primary care physician, a psychiatrist, a social worker or a counselor for problems related to psychological or emotional health or to address their use of alcohol or other drugs (23.9 percent versus 9.5 percent).

Over half of the surveyed IPV victims indicated that they had engaged in a binge drinking incident in the past year (52.4 percent), compared with 35.1 percent of non-victims. In addition, 7 percent of IPV victims also reported that they engaged in binge drinking on a regular basis, compared with 4.5 percent of non-victims.

The researchers believe that the findings provide evidence supporting the inclusion of screening for IPV as a regular part of medical check-ups.


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