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Alcoholism Treatment Reduces Intimate Partner Violence



Violence committed by alcoholic men toward their female partners was cut nearly in half after the men received a year of alcoholism treatment, a new study reports.

The overall prevalence of male-to-female violence among these couples decreased from 56 percent to 25 percent in the year after treatment. For patients whose alcoholism went into remission, the prevalence of violence dropped to 15 percent.

"It is tempting to attribute the violence reductions to the alcoholic patients' reduced drinking and increased abstinence, but it is also possible that the association between sobriety and violence reduction reflects a general pattern of life change rather than a specific result of substance use," says Timothy J. O'Farrell, Ph.D., of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

O'Farrell analyzed information on intimate partner violence from 301 heterosexual couples in which the male partner was enrolled in an outpatient alcoholism clinic. After a year of alcohol treatment, the frequency of violence and verbal aggression decreased as well.

The study is published as part of a special collection of research on alcohol consumption and intimate partner violence in the February 2003 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Among the other findings reported in the issue:

* Men with a recent history of violence toward their female partner are eight times more likely to be physically aggressive toward their partner on days when they drink, compared with days when they consume no alcohol, according to William Fals-Stewart, Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati. The odds of aggression increased with heavy drinking, says Stewart.

* Analysis of national data on intimate partner violence among minority populations indicates that the prevalence of such violence is higher among blacks and Hispanics than among whites. The proportion of new cases of violence between 1995 and 2000 was about two times higher for blacks and Hispanics than for whites, and rates of intimate partner violence were more stable among blacks and Hispanics, according to research by Raul Caetano, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Texas School of Public Health.

* One of the biggest stumbling blocks to studying intimate partner violence and alcohol may be conflicting information on violent episodes provided by the couple, says John Schafer, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Dallas. Schafer's research suggests that partners often recall the details of violent episodes differently, making it difficult for researchers to examine trends in alcohol use and violence.

These studies were supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Old Dominion University, the Alpha Foundation and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research:  http://www.alcoholism-cer.com.

---Health Behavior News Service

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