The Perfect Storm
Meth, Dopamine and Domestic Violence
Mike Rizzo

There are only two substances that are known to make a non-violent person violent, in some cases fueling domestic violence. The first is anabolic steroids; the other is methamphetamine.

Meth’s Effects

Meth is known to affect the brain’s dopamine levels, which can lead to intermittent explosive disorder, suicide and rage.

As a result of meth, a user may become suspicious and paranoid. In such an unstable state, he or she may react abusively toward a partner. This doesn’t just happen to heavy meth users; even moderate use of the drug can lead to domestic violence in some situations.

It is in the “tweaking” stage toward the end of a binge that meth users are most likely to be violent and unpredictable. At this point, they are sleep-deprived, they feel empty and they have poor impulse control—anything could set them off.

The withdrawal stage may also be a risky time. Usually it takes about two days to come down off the drug, but it can take up to 14 days for the individual to feel “normal.” After two days of withdrawal, depleted dopamine levels may lead to a state of severe depression—a possible trigger for domestic violence. Meth users may be angry and abusive, and they may project their problems onto their partners.

Meth often makes the user more confident, lowers inhibitions and the person becomes more argumentative and aggressive.

In situations where both partners are abusing crystal meth, both may contribute to the violence. A victim who would not normally fight back may do so under the influence of meth. This retaliation often means that the violence escalates and the danger increases.

Getting Help

Anyone who is experiencing domestic violence should be very careful and create a safety plan before leaving the situation.
If you have a problem with crystal meth, or if you are an abuser or victim of domestic abuse, the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center can help. Our Crystal Meth Recovery Services program offers individual and group counseling, and the Center has an evening outpatient addiction treatment program. The Center’s domestic violence services include counseling, survivors’ groups, a court-approved batterers’ intervention program, legal services and more.
Visit to learn more about meth.

Crystal Meth Recovery Services
(323) 993-7448

STOP Domestic Violence
(323) 860-5860

Mike Rizzo, CSAC, is the manager of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s Crystal Meth Recovery Services.

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