How Trauma Can Contribute to Addiction

Trauma and Addiction

Trauma comes in many forms and throughout the different stages of one’s life. Trauma can also happen to anyone and is very common. According to the National Center for PTSD, as much as 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women experiencing trauma at least once in their lifetime [1]. Trauma can exist in childhood or even for the first time in adulthood. Trauma can include a childhood ridden with physical and emotional abuse, a college student who barely survives a life-threatening car accident or a marriage that leads to domestic violence.

An elderly rape victim or a soldier who’s seen several civilians and soldiers die in war can also experience trauma. It comes back to haunt the shells of the individual in the form of depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental and health conditions. But for individuals who have experienced trauma in their lives, addiction to alcohol and drugs is a possibility. Here’s how:

Trauma Increases the Likelihood of Chronic Pain

Individuals addicted to drugs often turn to substances for the relief of chronic pain. But many do not understand the role of trauma in contributing to chronic pain. When pain lasts for longer than what it would naturally take during the healing process, it becomes chronic and can debilitate one’s quality of life [2]. Much of this can also be impacted from emotional stress, which is a common response of those who have experienced trauma. Research has shown that as much as 30 percent of patients with PTSD also experience chronic pain. The issue is that many individuals have used drugs and alcohol to relieve chronic pain [1]. This was typical behavior of Vietnam War veterans, of which as much as 84 percent had an issue with substance or alcohol abuse.

Everyone Experiences (and Copes With) Trauma Differently

It’s important to understand that people react to trauma in different ways and the impacting effects vary. There is no one “right” or “wrong” way to experience trauma and people can cope with it differently for that reason. Some common responses to traumatic experiences include numbing, emotional dysregulation, avoidance, re-enactments and social withdrawal [3]. Unfortunately, many individuals often rely on drugs and alcohol to “numb” their pain or as a way to avoid dealing with their traumatic experiences.

Child Abuse Can Later Lead to Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Studies show that drug and alcohol addiction are linked to all forms of abuse experienced during childhood. This may include sexual, physical and emotional abuse. A Journal of Traumatic Stress study found that emotional abuse experienced during childhood had one of the highest impacts among other forms of abuse, including physical and sexual abuse [4]. That’s because many of the adults in the study would use alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with the thoughts and flashbacks they may get from their traumatic experiences. Thus, it’s critical to discover healthier alternatives to cope with trauma and manage its effects.

Final Thoughts

Trauma’s ability to increase the likelihood of alcohol and substance abuse makes it ever-important for individuals challenged with the impact of trauma to seek help. Thus, it’s key to receive the essential support needed to subside the effects of trauma, counteract drug and alcohol abuse with the help of professional staff, such as Spring Hill. With adequate care, individuals who have experienced trauma and struggle with alcohol and substance abuse can get the support they need to find healthier coping mechanisms for a better quality of life.


Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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