Making The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

Making the Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

When considering the origin of drug addiction, it is often believed that the user went from ordinary life to a bad habit in a short period. However, most addictions begin because of underlying events, where failing mental health lead to a dependence on substances. This is not because drugs are the natural progression of depression, but rather because substance use can produce seemingly effective relief that leads to a moment of perceived happiness.

Drugs usually begin with an event, party, or friend introducing a particular medicine. The user recognizes that either alcohol or drugs can numb their mental state to live on a temporary high. Once they come down from this high, their mental state creeps back in, leading them to return to the substance. It creates a loop, which creates addiction. Addiction has a higher chance of being present if trauma is present before addiction. This article will discuss trauma-informed care, its connection to addiction, and how treatment can help.

Types of Trauma

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as “an event or circumstance resulting in physical, emotional, and life-threatening harm.” Trauma can often be overlooked, but its effects can cause lasting damage unless discussed. There are several types of trauma. Some examples include:

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Disasters/mass trauma
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Combat trauma
  • Cumulative trauma

These traumas can occur without us realizing their long-lasting effects on us. In the case of cumulative trauma, we can build a reaction to several smaller yet similar experiences that occurred. Other times, an experience that may not affect one individual may have lasting damage to our mental health, such as childhood experiences. They can be a singular event that stays with us, such as disaster or combat trauma.

Trauma can originate from relationships that should be safe. This can show up through intimate partner violence or sexual assault. If these experiences are left undiscussed or dealt with, they can grow to take over our mental state and leave us anxiety-ridden. The result is a desperate need for escape, often resulting in the development of addictive behaviors.

Addiction After Trauma

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), trauma detected in individuals was followed by lifetime dependence on various substances (39% alcohol, 34.1% cocaine, 6.2% heroin/opiates, and 44.8% marijuana). The presence of addiction is especially true for those who experienced trauma during childhood. Due to adolescent brains being more impressionable to new experiences, children are more susceptible to trauma. This is also the most common type of trauma, affecting 2 in 3 children in America before the age of 16, according to SAMHSA.

Traumatic experiences during childhood are strongly negative and can stunt our emotional processing. This malformation can require the brain to utilize survival and defense tactics that loop negative thought patterns throughout childhood and adulthood. When we train our brains to view life through survival instincts, we continually feed ourselves destructive thoughts and criticisms. This isn’t a situation that gets better with time. The emotional response grows stronger if these traumas are not broken down into manageable ideas. It reoccurs until there is a fix. The emotional trauma snowballs into adulthood, where substances are used to cope with the constant internal anger and pain.

Trauma-Informed Care

When seeking help for addiction, there are questions about how to battle addiction and find healing from trauma. Fortunately, many addiction treatment centers now utilize trauma-informed care to provide answers to these challenging questions. Trauma-informed care is the understanding that with addiction, there is an assumption that trauma is present. With that, we can make the best possible treatment for your physical, mental, and emotional needs.

The Various Components of Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-informed care is made up of solid principles. It starts with trustworthiness and transparency. All treatment is done in an honest and open environment, showing you every step of your journey. The next is peer support. Not only is there a staff of experts, but there is a community of individuals struggling with similar experiences. This continues with collaboration and mutuality, understanding that we are all on the same platform. Next comes empowerment and the choice to speak, giving you an environment that values your voice. All of these aspects come with understanding cultural, historical, and gender elements that make every person’s path unique. This informed care ensures you can walk away from addiction and the pain that has followed.

Next Steps

The interconnected relationship between trauma and addiction can almost seem unfair. Why is it that an experience as a child should adversely affect how we view the world? At First Steps Recovery, we break down the origins of your trauma. We pinpoint how it affected us and how we may have used substances to cope.

While it feels easier to continue living with the memories and nurse the wounds of addiction, breaking free from the habits is more accessible. Addiction treatment is the first step to placing the past in the past to move forward to our happiest future. The journey may not be easy, but the results will bring you a lifetime of hurt.

At First Steps Recovery, we place trauma-informed care at the front of your treatment experience. Wherever there is substance dependence, there is an underlying traumatic experience or mental health concern attempting to be covered up. We want to pull back the curtain and remove the source of pain to help you achieve long-term sobriety. It is a reality to live pain-free. No one experience defines us and neither does your addiction. Our staff and clinics are dedicated to aiding you in throwing off the chains that weigh you down. If you believe you may be a victim of past trauma, which has affected your relationship with alcohol or drugs, please contact First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836 for more information.

At First Steps Recovery, we place trauma-informed care at the front of your treatment experience. Wherever there is substance dependence, there is an underlying traumatic experience or mental health concern attempting to be covered up. We want to pull back the curtain and remove the source of pain to help you achieve long-term sobriety. It is a reality to live pain-free. No one experience defines us and neither does your addiction. Our staff and clinics are dedicated to aiding you in throwing off the chains that weigh you down. If you believe you may be a victim of past trauma, which has affected your relationship with alcohol or drugs, please contact First Steps Recovery at (844) 489-0836 for more information.

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