It’s inescapable. That’s how it feels at least. The dread of it all just sort of ever-present in one way or another.

The American Psychological Association describes trauma as an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. That’s not the end of it though. After initial feelings of denial subside, you find that the trauma lingers. Incessantly.

It causes flashbacks, stresses relationships to the breaking point and can manifest itself physically in the form of headaches or nausea. 

Dealing with it is not easy but people find ways to cope, especially with the help of a professional treatment center.

What Is the Connection Between Trauma and Addiction?

The sad reality of our world is that trauma is not a rare phenomenon, numerous studies have shown that through the course of our lives, 51% of women and 61% of men will have had a traumatic experience.

Worse yet, experiencing trauma as a child has been linked to substance use disorders. The results of one study showed that in a sample of highly traumatized people, rates of dependency on drugs and alcohol were particularly high.

Data from 17,000 patients in another study by Kaiser Permanente showed that if a child experienced more than 4 traumatic events they’d be 5 times more likely to end up an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese and 46 times more like to use injectable drug.

And that’s the thing, substance abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum and addiction isn’t something people just fall into by chance. Often there’s a motivator and addiction is, in many ways, a symptom of deeper-seated painful experience. A way by which the user can “escape” the hold of it, if only for a brief moment in time. 

Traumas bury themselves deep in the psyche and will torment us until we face them or they destroy us.

It doesn’t have to be the latter.

Addressing Trauma in Substance Abuse Treatment

Fortunately, there are options out there to manage trauma and substance abuse at the same time. In some ways, it’s part of the whole recovery process, addressing substance abuse requires working through the trauma that preceded it. There’s no safer place to unpack that than in the warm embrace and with the oversight and guidance of caring professionals.

This breaks down into a few methods, trauma-informed, trauma-specific and dual diagnosis. The National Trauma Consortium lays out the basics of the first two:

Trauma-Informed Services consider “knowledge about trauma—its impact, interpersonal dynamics, and paths to recovery—and incorporate this knowledge thoroughly in all aspects of service delivery.”

Trauma-Specific Services have a more focused primary goal “to address directly the impact of trauma on people’s lives and to facilitate trauma recovery and healing”.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment generally encompasses the same ideas as above and means that someone with substance abuse is also dealing with mental illness. Trauma can, of course, present itself as any type of mental illness, be it; depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, etc. the way our minds deal with and process these experiences is unique to each individual.

A dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, treatment regimen works to treat both aspects. To truly kick the addiction to drugs or alcohol once and for all, it requires properly dealing with the trauma you’ve experienced, otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for a potential relapse.

How to Get Help With Addiction

Help with substance abuse and the trauma that led you or your friend or family member down the road to addiction is only a call away. At Newport Beach Recovery Center in Orange County, we have a combined 30+ years of experience getting their lives back, both physically and mentally. Reach out to us and let us know how to help.