Can Cannabis Help Prevent Domestic Violence? [What the Research Says…]

Does weed make us less violent?

We talk in depth here on MarijuanaBreak about the specific health benefits of cannabis and CBD oil. But guess what? The therapeutic advantages of the natural herb certainly do not stop at the internal, ‘organismal’ level.

Indeed, studies have shown how the use of marijuana has impacted people’s lives on much larger social scales, including interactions between couples, families, and even full-scale communities (have you checked crime rates recently in states that have legalized weed?).

In this article, we take a specific look at how marijuana use can help lower the rate of domestic violence. In fact, we will be going over a few high-profile studies that have shown how use of the herb has already statistically lowered violent activity in households and communities where weed use is highly prominent.

Weed Use and Domestic Violence: What is Domestic Violence, Anyway?

The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV) points out the common error of categorizing domestic violence (DV) strictly as physical violence. This is far from the case. In fact, they have defined DV as:

“…any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.”

As you can see, this is a very wide-ranging issue, and is one that is likely much more common than any of us here in the U.S. (and indeed around the world) realize. Domestic violence can include things like:

  • Controlling Behavior
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse & Intimidation
  • Verbal Abuse (including Coercion, Threats, & Blame)
  • Using Male Privilege
  • Stalking
  • Economic Abuse (financial abuse abusing social classes based on their position in society)

To provide a few examples of the subtle nature of domestic violence, the ACESDV gives some unique portrayals of what might fall under the definition of “controlling behavior”:

“Controlling behavior is a way for the “batterer” to maintain dominance over the victim. [It can include things as seemingly harmless as]:”

  • Checking the mileage on the odometer following use of a significant other’s car
  • Monitoring phone calls and texts
  • Calling or coming home unexpectedly to check up on a significant other

As you can see, DV is a very serious issue that is much more common than we are all likely aware. In fact, estimates out of the Washington Post suggest that over 30% of women in the U.S. have experienced some form of domestic violence at a point in their relationships.

And being that there is no real medication to prevent the occurence of DV, it may seem as if there’s nothing available to control its widespread prevalence. This is where marijuana comes in.

Where is Domestic Violence Most Prominent in the U.S.?

It might seem like domestic violence would be something that is equally prevalent all throughout the country, but indeed there are places and regions where it seems to be more common.

According to an article published by The Revelist in September 2016, for example, the 10 states with the highest rates of DV were (in order from highest to lowest):

  1. Alaska
  2. Louisiana
  3. Nevada
  4. Oklahoma
  5. South Carolina
  6. New Mexico
  7. South Dakota
  8. Georgia
  9. Tennessee
  10. Texas

If you follow cannabis legalization at all and are familiar with the state-by-state laws, you’ll see a very alarming pattern here: many of these states (barring Alaska, Nevada and New Mexico) have some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country.

The general consensus, then, is that alcohol is likely more prevalent as a preferred substance in these states (where weed is NOT legal), and thus the levels of abuse tend to be higher. And as you’ll see, scientific evidence backs up this general notion very well.

Studies Have Shown That Marijuana Use Lowers the Rate of Domestic Violence

One study, for instance, published in the journal “Psychology of Addictive Behaviors,” showed that over the first nine years of a marriage the rate of “partner violence” is inversely proportional to the rate of marijuana use. In other words, the higher the instance of domestic violence, the lower the rate of weed use among the partners (and vice-versa).

This general sentiment was reflected in a massive article published by the Washington Post in 2014, wherein the claim was made based on a study that “…Couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence.”

The study of reference was conducted by a team of scientists out of the University of Buffalo, who concluded that “…couples in which both spouses [i.e. both the husband and wife] used marijuana frequently, reported the least frequent IPV (intimate partner violence)…”

The data was collected based on information from 634 couples whose behavior had been monitored since 1996.

Not All Data Agrees That Marijuana Use Decreases Domestic Violence

Not all data on marijuana and domestic violence has been so peachy. One article that was published by Psychology Today back in March of 2016, for example, cited a 50 year study that concluded with the simple notion that “marijuana use increases violent behavior.”

The research was published in the online journal “Psychological Medicine,” and essentially concluded that the use of cannabis can cause “…violent behavior as a direct result of changes in brain function, [which may be brought on by] smoking weed over many years.”

So who are we to believe here?

Well, it’s worth pointing out that the aforementioned study in Psychological Medicine was a particularly rigorous one. It consisted of 411 English children born in the early 1950’s, 97% of which were Caucasian and all of which were raised in two-parent households. It took into consideration things like parental alcohol abuse and other drug use, cigarette smoking, and mental illness. It also tracked the marijuana consumption of the children’s parents, and found that most of them had experimented with cannabis at some point in their teens, but had stopped using it later in life. 38% of them claimed to have tried cannabis at least once in their life.

The final results of the study showed that “…use of cannabis over the life of the study was [a strong] predictor of violent [behavior], even when other factors that contributed to violent behavior were considered in the analysis.”

In clearer terms, the results portrayed seven times greater odds of violent behavior among habitual cannabis users, as compared to non-users. In all honesty, that’s some pretty shocking information. According to the article, the increased risk level is similar in terms of percentage to the increased risk of lung cancer that tobacco smokers experience as compared to non-smokers.

As an explanation of sorts, the researchers suggested that cannabis-induced impairments in neurons may have been the cause for some of the observed violent behavior, though this is completely conflicting with current data released by the U.S. government and other sources that cannabinoids act as a neuroprotectant (see U.S. patent #6,630,507).

All in all, it seems that marijuana use and domestic violence needs much more quality research before we can come to any kind of definitive conclusion on whether or not there’s significant correlation between the two.

Final Thoughts on Marijuana Use and Domestic Violence

While quality research has been carried out that shows marijuana use to help lower the incidence of domestic violence, there have also been publications showcasing the exact opposite.

In general, we tend to look at the more prevalent data; in this occurrence, it seems that there is more data pointing to the fact that weed use does in fact lead to a reduced rate of DV, even if there are statistics claiming otherwise.

All in all, more definitive (and larger-scale) research needs to be conducted if we are to come to a more reliable, concrete answer.

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