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Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

    Trauma and Addiction

    There is a strong Connection Between Trauma and Addiction, people who have lived traumatic events may tend to self-medicate to ease the symptoms of the trauma by using drugs or alcohol. Before we get to the main topic, let’s first learn about trauma. 

    According to the piece ‘Trauma and Addiction’, published by Carrierclinic.org, when a person fears for their safety, experiences intense pain, or witnesses a tragic or violent act, that person can be described as having experienced trauma. Levels of resiliency vary from person to person, so reactions to traumatic events are similarly varied. 

    Understanding Traumatic Events

    Although frightening experiences impact people at any age, adults will generally be more likely to manage through trauma than children will be. Further, some trauma is repeated or ongoing, such as that of child abuse or military combat. Other examples of traumatic events include car accidents, repeated bullying, street violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, growing up in an unstable home, natural disasters, divorce, loss, relationship breakdown, or battling a life-threatening condition.

    If trauma and the feelings associated with it are not resolved, serious long-term issues can develop. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) disrupts the lives of people who have experienced unresolved trauma by negatively impacting their relationships, emotions, physical body, thinking, and behavior. 

    PTSD sufferers may experience sleep disturbances, nightmares, anxiety and depression, flashbacks, dissociative episodes in which they feel disconnected from reality, excessive fears, self-injurious behaviors, impulsiveness, and addictive traits/a predisposition to addiction. [1]

    Connection Between Trauma and Addiction
    Those who suffer from Trauma may experience sleep disturbances, nightmares, anxiety and depression, flashbacks, dissociative episodes, excessive fears, self-injurious behaviors, impulsiveness, and addictive traits/a predisposition to addiction.

    Childhood Trauma and Addiction

    As the National Library of Medicine states in the scientific piece ‘Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population’, “Exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders (SUDs), including abuse and dependence. SUDs are also highly comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood-related psychopathology”. [2]

    The authors made research with 587 participants recruited from medical and obstetrician-gynecologist clinic waiting rooms at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, GA. “In this highly traumatized population, high rates of lifetime dependence on various substances were found (39% alcohol, 34.1% cocaine, 6.2% heroin/opiates, and 44.8% marijuana). The level of substance use, particularly cocaine, strongly correlated with levels of childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as current PTSD symptoms. In particular, there was a significant additive effect of the number of types of childhood trauma experienced with history of cocaine dependence in predicting current PTSD symptoms, and this effect was independent of exposure to adult trauma”. [2]

    Connection Between Trauma and Addiction
    Child who experiences four or more traumatic events is five times more likely to become an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese, and up to 46 times more likely to become an injection-drug user than the general population.

    In addition, other researchers have been studying The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction in order to understand why so many drug and alcohol abusers have histories of traumatic experiences. Data from over 17,000 patients in ‘Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences’ study indicate that a child who experiences four or more traumatic events is five times more likely to become an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese, and up to 46 times more likely to become an injection-drug user than the general population. [3] Other studies have found similar connections between childhood Trauma and Addiction, and studies by the Veterans Administration have led to estimates that between 35-75% of veterans with PTSD abuse drugs and alcohol. [3]

    These articles showed how at-risk of developing a substance addiction are people suffering from a trauma that happened at an early age. If you think you may be suffering from this condition between Trauma and Addiction, you can seek help at We Level Up Treatment Center. 

    Military and Veterans suffering from PTSD 

    One of the highest risk groups for both PTSD and addiction is the veteran population. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, veterans who seek out treatment for a SUD are often diagnosed with PTSD. This is most likely due to the emotional stress, physical demand, and mental strain of combat. Service members that were deployed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

    In addition, PTSD has also been linked to veterans that have been sexually assaulted or harassed during their military service or experience.  Military service trauma can happen to any service member, of any gender, during their military service. Sexual trauma includes sexual assault, sexual abuse, or sexual harassment. About 1 in 5 female veterans have been diagnosed with military sexual trauma by Veteran Affairs (VA). [4]

    How does the Connection Between Trauma and Addiction work?

    The reasons behind this common co-occurrence of addiction and trauma are complex. For one thing, some people struggling to manage the effects of trauma in their lives may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. PTSD symptoms like agitation, hypersensitivity to loud noises or sudden movements, depression, social withdrawal, and insomnia may seem more manageable through the use of sedating or stimulating drugs depending on the symptom. However, addiction soon becomes yet another problem in the trauma survivor’s life. Before long, the “cure” no longer works and causes far more pain to an already suffering person.

    Connection Between Trauma and Addiction
    People struggling to manage the effects of trauma in their lives may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

    Other possible reasons Trauma and Addiction are often found together include the theory that a substance abuser’s lifestyle puts the person in harm’s way more often than that of a non-addicted person. Unsavory acquaintances, dangerous neighborhoods, impaired driving, and other aspects commonly associated with drug and alcohol abuse may indeed predispose substance abusers to be traumatized by crime, accidents, violence, and abuse.

    There may also be a genetic component linking people prone to PTSD and those with addictive tendencies, although no definitive conclusion has been made by research so far. [1]

    Signs of Drug Abuse

    It is common for people abusing substances to be very secretive and try to hide their condition from friends and family, that’s because it is important to have in mind some of the signs of drug abuse. Someone misusing or abusing drugs can have the following signs and symptoms:

    • Being argumentative when asked about substance use
    • Changes in spending habits and issues with finances
    • Noticeable changes in behavior
    • Decreased appetite and weight loss
    • Lack of motivation and poor work performance
    • Looking sick, such as bloodshot eyes and changes in skin tone

    Addiction and Trauma Treatment

    According to the Recovery Research Institute, methods for treating both the substance use disorder and any associated trauma, have been found to increase long-term positive patient outcomes.

    Components of trauma-focused treatment often include: 

    • Grief or loss counseling
    • Peer support groups
    • Individual or group talk therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)
    • Exposure or desensitization work
    • Pharmacotherapy: medications to decrease symptoms
    • Holistic practice: mindfulness techniques, relaxation, yoga, meditation, acupuncture
    • Coping skill development: emotional regulation, cognitive restructuring (often gender specific coping skills)

    Three core tenets of trauma-specific interventions:

    • Recognize the survivor’s need to be respected, informed, and optimistic about recovery
    • Identify the interrelation between trauma and substance use
    • Work collaboratively with family and friends of the survivor, and other human services agencies to ensure empowerment and promote resiliency [5]

    As stated by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The 6 key principles of trauma informed care are:

    • Safety
    • Trustworthiness and Transparency
    • Peer Support
    • Collaboration and Mutuality
    • Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
    • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues [6]

    Two Empirically-based Trauma-Focused Models for Addiction Treatment:

    Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health, and Recovery (TAMAR): developed as part of the first phase of the SAMHSA Women, Co-Occurring Disorders and Violence Study, the TAMAR Education Project is a structured, manualized 10-week intervention combining psycho-educational approaches with expressive therapies.

    Seeking Safety: is an evidence-based, present-focused counseling model designed to help people attain safety from further trauma and substance use. For more information, visit Seeking Safety (used in Hazelden Betty Ford’s COR-12 program). [5]

    Inpatient Trauma and Addiction Treatment


    Inpatient Trauma and Addiction Treatment In most cases of addiction, trauma is involved. In fact, most people who seek out Inpatient Recovery Centers for their alcohol or drug addiction also have a history that includes some form of emotional or physical abuse. In many cases, both the past trauma and the current destructive behavior are manifestations of a single underlying issue: a lack of safety in a person’s life.

    In our Inpatient Recovery Center, we address all three areas – physical, emotional, and spiritual – to heal those wounds from your past so you can find true recovery from your addiction to drugs or alcohol through one of our evidence-based programs. Inpatient treatment isn’t just about helping you stop using drugs or alcohol; it’s about helping you become the healthiest, most complete version of yourself possible.

    In a residential trauma treatment program, you’ll be surrounded by others who are facing similar challenges to recognize that you’re part of something greater than just your addiction. In treatment, our clients undergo individual therapy sessions with one of our talented therapists each day while also engaging in evidence-based 12-Step groups and holistic activities that help them become the best person they can be.

    Reclaim Your Life from Trauma and Addiction

    Trauma and Addiction are conditions that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Trauma and Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

    Sources:

    [1] ‘Trauma and Addiction’ – (Carrierclinic.org)

    [2] Khoury, L., Tang, Y. L., Bradley, B., Cubells, J. F., & Ressler, K. J. (2010). Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population. Depression and anxiety, 27(12), 1077–1086. – (Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

    [3] ‘Kaiser Permanente’s Adverse Childhood Experiences’ – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Cdc.gov)

    [4] ‘PTSD: National Center for PTSD: How Common is PTSD in Adults’ – U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Ptsd.va.gov)

    [5] ‘Trauma & Addiction Treatment & Recovery’ – Recovery Research Institute (Recoveryanswers.org)

    [6] U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Samhsa.gov)