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Alcohol and drug abuse can cause family violence. So, what can you do when alcohol or drugs cause family violence?

Not all people who abuse alcohol or drugs will become violent, but statistically, family abusers are far more likely to also abuse drugs or alcohol, and violent abuse is far more likely to occur while the abuser is intoxicated.

In some cases, the acute effects of the high can cause aggressive, irrational and dangerous outbursts, for example, a meth addict ending a multi day binge can get paranoid, aggressive and violent. If this violence is very out of character and the addict is not otherwise aggressive or violent, then without the negative influence of drug abuse, the violence should stop.

Domestic Assault

In the case of chronic domestic violence though, although the abuser will often get violent while intoxicated, there is no evidence that the violence will stop with the end of alcohol or drug abuse. Most perpetrators of domestic violence will batter both while sober and while intoxicated. For chronic domestic assault, treatment for substance abuse issues alone will not remove the long term threat to the family, and the abuser will need to participate in additional therapy to learn how to end their violent tendencies.

Elder Abuse

Substance abuse and elder abuse, the physical, emotional or neglectful abuse of elderly relatives under the abuser's care also occurs with saddening regularity. The elderly are often targeted for violence and abuse for financial reasons, out of frustration or for no apparent reason at all. Due to their self perceived vulnerability, the elderly are far less likely to report such behaviors to the police or other authorities.

Violence Can Never be Justified

Whatever the reason and whatever the justifications given, if a loved substance abuser harms the family with violence, emotional or sexual assault, the family needs to look after itself in the interest of self preservation, and self preservation needs to come before the needs of the substance abuser.

You are no help to anyone if you are badly injured, and no matter how you may love someone, if they do you harm, they need to go, or you need to go…and the authorities need to get involved.

You cannot allow someone to terrorize you, and whatever your familial ties, there can be no excuses made for someone who would do you physical or other harms.

If you live with or feel threatened by a substance abusing family member, take steps to get safe and take them right now. If your teen son abuses you, he has to go. Call the police and have them escort him out. You still love him, you can still support his treatment, but you can no longer allow him to harm you or others in the family.

If you live with a substance abusing spouse, you need to get out before it gets worse. Get out and get safe as soon as you can, and don’t consider seeing him or her until both the violence and the substance abuse have been therapeutically addressed.

If children are at risk, get out. There is no excuse--no possible rationalization--that ever justifies the abuse of children, and you need to get them safe. Remaining in the home puts your children at risk of physical harm, of developmental delays and at risk to propagate the violence themselves as adults. There can be no tolerance for abuse to children.

If you live with adult children who abuse you, threaten you for money or emotionally terrorize you, you do not have to stay with them. Do not believe that you are better off with family. Call the police.

You may love them, worry for them and rationalize their behaviors, but once they get violent, they have to go. Call the police, learn your rights and your options, and take steps to ensure that it never happens again.

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Page last updated Jan 17, 2015

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