Substance Abuse

What is substance abuse?

Substance abuse is the excessive use or dependence on a substance, especially alcohol or a drug.

Substance abuse may impact the individual’s life in the following ways:

  • Pattern of usage - excessive usage or binging on the substance
  • Inability to control use or to stop taking the substance
  • Impairment in social or work functioning as a consequence
  • Failure to meet obligations to family and friends
  • Persistent use despite harmful consequences
  • Development of serious withdrawal symptoms (depending on the substance) after cessation or reduction in substance use

Substance abuse can impact anyone, regardless of their age, gender, economic status, race, sexual orientation, religion, or education.

Women often face additional stigma and shame around their substance abuse, especially if they are mothers. This may make it more difficult to reach out for support.


How does substance abuse affect women?

Women are physiologically more vulnerable to substances than men and have higher blood alcohol levels than do men after consuming equal amounts of alcohol.

Girls and women are more likely to start substance abuse as a coping mechanism in response to trauma, including trauma from physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Women who have been abused are 15 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to abuse drugs than women who have not been abused.


How is substance abuse linked to domestic violence?

Although substance abuse does not cause domestic violence, they can occur together and can aggravate each other. Between 25 - 50% of the women receiving domestic violence services have substance abuse problems (Ogle & Baer, 2003), and between 67% - 80% of women in substance abuse treatment have experienced domestic violence (Cohen, et al., 2003).

Survivors may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their abuse. Or they may be forced to start using by their abusive partner, making survivors even more dependent on the abusive partner. An abusive partner may also use their own substance abuse as an excuse for their behavior. 

The combination of domestic violence and substance abuse can be a dangerous situation. WIT offers counseling and support for women experiencing both domestic violence and substance abuse.


Is recovery from substance abuse possible?

Yes, recovery is possible, but it takes serious commitment to change, responsibility, and accountability.

Treatment and supportive services are key factors to reaching sobriety and safety. Recovery is not an immediate change of life; it is an ongoing lifelong process.


What can I do to help?

If someone you care about has asked for help, validate this important first step in their recovery process. Acknowledge that it takes a lot of courage to seek help and that you will be there to support them.

Encourage them to reach out to WIT’s LifeLine for free and confidential telephone counseling, or reach out yourself for supportive counseling and resources.

Volunteer with WIT to provide support for women experiencing domestic violence and substance abuse

Host a workshop to better understand substance abuse at your workplace, church, school, or private group.

Make a donation to support WIT’s lifesaving services: LifeLine telephone counseling, empowerment counseling, peer support groups, advocacy, and more.