The Link Between Middle Class Drug Use and Domestic Violence
Substance Abuse is a Class Issue
There is a clear association between social economic class and substance abuse, with several studies demonstrating the impact that poverty, education, and employment has on drug and alcohol use. The rates of alcohol and drug use actually rise with increased levels of income and education.¹ According to the Gallup Poll and a report published by the independent Social Metrics Commission, middle-class people consume more alcohol and illegal drugs than those living below the poverty line.2-3 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports a similar trend, with higher income Americans showing the greatest increase in heroin use since 2002.4
Although the prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse may be highest in specific subpopulations, its effects are felt throughout the community. This can be seen in London, where the skyrocketing use of cocaine by middle class professionals may have impacts on a recent spike in violence.5 Or here in the United States, where the current opioid epidemic that has been felt from coast-to-coast may be linked to a national rise in homicides, as reported in a study published by the US Justice Department-affiliated National Institute for Justice.6 But as the media headlines tend to focus on the victims of drug-related street crimes, the identity of those most vulnerable to substance abuse-related violence remains under the radar. The sad truth is that the individuals most prone to harm are those who are closest to the substance abusers, namely their spouses and domestic partners.
Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse are Linked
There is an intimate connection between drug use and domestic violence. One is often a symptom of the other, and in many cases, they occur simultaneously. Statistics from the American Society of Addiction Medicine reveal that substance abuse is involved in 40-60% of all incidents of intimate partner violence.7 And according to the American Psychological Association, a dependence on drugs or alcohol increases both your risk of experiencing domestic violence and your chances of becoming an abusive partner.8
Evidence suggests that substance abuse, particularly with alcohol and stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamines), plays an important role in domestic violence by promoting preexisting abusive patterns and exacerbating violent behavior.9-10 On the other hand, victims of domestic violence are much more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs, often as an escape from the physical and emotional abuse that they face. Whether you are the perpetrator or victim of domestic violence, drugs and alcohol are never a suitable form of therapy. Rather than provide you with comfort and relief, substance abuse will instead lead to increased addiction and the escalation of domestic violence.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or struggling with a substance use disorder, there are many sources of help available. Make it your priority to get out of a dangerous situation by seeking assistance or calling one of the many available hotlines, such as The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE). It is then imperative to treat any struggles with substance abuse by seeking help at a substance abuse treatment center.
- Galea, S., Ahern, J., Tracy, M., & Vlahov, D. (2007). Neighborhood Income and Income Distribution and the Use of Cigarettes, Alcohol, and Marijuana. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(6), S195–202.
- Gallup Poll. (20158). Drinking Highest Among Educated, Upper-Income Americans.
- Social Metrics Commission. (2018). A New Measure of Poverty for the UK.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Today’s Heroin Epidemic.
- U.K. Home Office, National Statistics. (2018). Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2017/18 Crime Survey for England and Wales.
- National Institute of Justice. (2017). Assessing and Responding to the Recent Homicide Rise in the United States.
- Soper, R. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Substance Abuse/Addiction.
- American Psychological Association. (2019). Intimate Partner Violence.
- Fals-Stewart, W., Golden, J., & Schumacher, J.A. (2003). Intimate Partner Violence and Substance Use: A Longitudinal Day-to-Day Examination. Addictive Behaviors, 28(9), 1555-1574.
- Kramer, T.L., Borders, T.F., Tripathi, S., Lynch, C., Leukefeld, C., Falck, R.S., …Booth, B.M. (2012). Physical Victimization of Rural Methamphetamine and Cocaine Users. Violence and Victims, 27(1), 109–124.