How Past Traumas Can Affect Drug Addiction

How Past Traumas Can Affect Drug Addiction

When a person lives in the grips of an addiction to drugs or alcohol, they may not understand the source of their problem. People often labor under the idea that substance use disorders relate only to a lack of willpower to stop drinking or using drugs. They do not realize that traumas affecting addiction may be in play.

For many, trauma plays a huge role in why they began to drink or use drugs. An event from the past or something still happening may have become so overwhelming that the use of substances felt like a way to cope with overwhelming emotions. For many, that usage turns into a full-blown addiction.

Trauma Can Be Caused by Many Events

Trauma can result from many different sources. It may come from an ongoing event, something that happened in the past, or a combination of the two. Causes of traumas affecting addiction can include:

  • Parental neglect or abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional and verbal abuse
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault and rape
  • Bullying or ongoing harassment
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes
  • Accidents
  • Military service
  • Witnessing wartime events
  • Terminal illness

Having experienced trauma sometimes results in a person developing Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institutes of Health reports that young people who experience trauma have an increased likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. As many as 59% of adolescents with PTSD go on to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Symptoms of Suffering From Trauma

An individual suffering from traumas affecting addiction may exhibit any number of signs related to it. Symptoms of trauma may include:

  • Inappropriate and excessive emotional reactions
  • Mood shifts
  • Exhibiting constant fear or anxiety
  • Easily agitated or startled
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Avoidance of places, people, or situations that remind a person of the event
  • Panic attacks
  • Often reliving the traumatic event
  • Having flashbacks
  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining social, romantic, and professional relationships

Like many other mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, trauma may present as medical symptoms. People with trauma often deal with things like recurrent headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, body aches, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns.

When the correlation of traumas affecting addiction isn’t discovered, a person or their doctor may treat these symptoms with over-the-counter or prescription medications. This neglects the key component of understanding the physical symptoms are actually manifestations of the trauma. Addressing this realization can help open up the patient to receiving professional help that addresses the root of the physical symptoms. 

How Common is PTSD?

PTSD can happen to anyone who deals with a traumatic event. About 7-8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives. During any given year, approximately eight million adults deal with PTSD.

Women are more likely to experience trauma related to childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault. Men are more apt to experience trauma through physical assault, accidents, disasters, and military combat. 

Research shows that the occurrence of PTSD in patients with a substance use disorder is about three times higher than the average population. Patients with PTSD are up to 14 times more likely than patients without PTSD to have a substance use disorder.

Treating Trauma and Addiction

When traumas affecting addiction are not addressed in treatment, it negatively impacts the ability of an individual to achieve long-lasting recovery from a substance use disorder. Therapy with a licensed counselor can provide an impactful way for someone to address their trauma. 

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been shown to provide great assistance in treating people with trauma. This type of therapy includes utilizing teaching a patient things like:

  • How to distract themselves from symptoms of trauma and become more relaxed. 
  • Mindfulness exercises that can help a person stay in the present and not become lost to a flashback.
  • Learning to regulate emotions by identifying them and choosing a healthy way to handle them.
  • Establishing healthy boundaries in relationships.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) also helps assist with trauma-related issues. This type of treatment can include:

  • Retraining the mind in how it views situations and expectations while creating a more balanced way of thinking.
  • Controlled exposure to reminders of the source of trauma in order to teach a person to confront them in a healthy manner rather than avoid them.
  • Planning for potential crises and knowing how to respond to them while managing stress levels.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) provides a breakthrough way for many patients to treat their trauma. EMDR is a  treatment designed to help alleviate the stress that accompanies traumatic memories. The process involves a trained therapist directing a patient to use specific lateral eye movements and other stimuli, including hand-tapping and audio. 

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Arizona

Continuum Recovery Center offers lasting recovery through our treatment program in Phoenix. We incorporate holistic approaches to ensure the whole person receives treatment to help them deal with their addictions and any accompanying trauma. We offer outpatient and partial hospitalization treatment that addresses drug and alcohol addiction and any accompanying mental health issues.

Contact Continuum Recovery Center today for more information about how our program can help you.