Please note: Entries within this blog may contain references to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

The Impact of Substance Abuse on Unhealthy Relationships

Being in an unhealthy or abusive relationship is already a difficult situation. Alcohol and drug abuse only make matters worse. When a partner is under the influence, the risks of abuse on all levels – physical, verbal, emotional, digital and sexual – are all amplified, leading to a deeply troubling situation.

Yet alcoholism and substance abuse are a reality among young people. On average, they have about five drinks on a single occasion, which leads to serious injuries, impaired judgments and increased risk for physical and sexual assault. In a relationship, these factors only hurt the ones they claim to love.

Blaming the Booze

“It wasn’t me, it was the beer talking!”

“I would never do that if I was sober.”

“I’m not really that person. That’s who I am when I’m high.”

An abusive partner who’s also abusing alcohol or drugs might say those things. They may blame drugs or alcohol instead of accepting responsibility for their behavior or actions. Because drugs and alcohol affect a person’s judgment and the way a person acts, it can be all too easy to accept what they say and move on without addressing the real underlying issue of abuse. However, those excuses are not valid. Whatever the drug of choice, it’s not a reason for violent or unhealthy behavior.

The Cycle of (Drug) Abuse

When one partner suffers from a drinking or drug problem, a particularly vicious cycle can occur. The distances created by their habit may lead to fighting, and then to take the stress off, more drinking or drugs happen. The substance abuse causes conflict, which can lead to more substance abuse to reduce tension, leading to an escalation of conflict and so on.

Do you know someone who “covers” for their partner being late or missing deadlines? Are they upset because their partner spends all their money and they’re not sure why? Do they claim their partner drinks or gets high to stave off stress? Is drinking or smoking one of the defining hallmarks of their relationship?

Treatment is available to help end drug addiction, including counseling, self-help meetings and support groups. If you see the signs of alcohol or drug abuse in a relationsip or the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship, call or chat with a trained peer advocate about what you can do to help.