February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and April is Alcohol Awareness month, so we are using March to talk about the connection between unsafe teenage relationships and alcohol and drug use. Drugs and alcohol play a dangerous role in teen dating violence.  Drugs and alcohol increase the risk for dating violence, and people who are victims of dating violence are at increased risk for using drugs and alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol lead to poor choices 

Being drunk or drugged can make someone more likely to physically or emotionally hurt a person with whom they’re in a relationship. Teenagers are still learning to manage their emotions and make healthy choices.  Adding drugs or alcohol increases the likelihood that a person might lose control and make poor choices. Dating violence occurs when one person intentionally hurts the other – or when they both do it to each other. A dating partner who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs is more likely to engage in abusive behavior. Here are some examples of abusive behavior from www.loveisrespect.org:

  • Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
  • Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.
  • Pulling your hair.
  • Pushing or pulling you.
  • Grabbing your clothing.
  • Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
  • Smacking your bottom without your permission or consent.
  • Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
  • Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.
  • Calling you names and putting you down.
  • Yelling and screaming at you.
  • Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
  • Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
  • Telling you what to do and wear.
  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.).
  • Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
  • Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your outside relationships.
  • Stalking you.
  • Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
  • Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
  • Using gaslighting techniques to confuse or manipulate you.
  • Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
  • Starting rumors about you.
  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.
  • Puts you down in their status updates.
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit video or sexts.
  • Steals or insists on being given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
  • Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.

Drugs and alcohol are seen as a way to cope

When the partner who is being abused is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can make him or her more vulnerable to being physically or sexually assaulted. They may also use alcohol or drugs to reduce stress or tension in the relationship and/or to cope with the depression and anxiety that come from being victimized.

According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, those who were in an abusive relationship during their teen years are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, including drug and alcohol use, later in life. Girls were reported to binge drink, smoke cigarettes, have suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression. Boys were reported to use marijuana, have suicidal thoughts and show antisocial behavior.

Abuse does not happen in healthy relationships. Conflict is to be expected, but violence and other forms of aggression should never be part of a relationship. Teach your teen that both people in a relationship need to respect themselves, communicate effectively and treat the other person with respect at all times. Teens who respect themselves are much less likely to use alcohol or drugs or stay in a relationship with someone who is abusive. As a parent, it is your responsibility to model self-respect and healthy relationship behaviors. You are your child’s best teacher!

Here are some links to sites with helpful information about drug and alcohol abuse in teens and dating violence:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) for Teens

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Break the Cycle


Parents, talk to your teens. They will listen!