Substance Abuse and Past Trauma

Is there a link between past trauma and substance use disorders?

It should come as no surprise that substance abuse and trauma are closely linked when it comes to so-called “addictive behavior.”

In a world where substance abuse is relatively common (reportedly affecting 1 in 9 individuals directly or indirectly) we’re beginning to understand triggers to the addictive behaviors of most affected by the disease. With understanding comes better treatment options for those directly or indirectly affected.

One of the recurring themes in these sorts of cases is past or present trauma. While the effects of trauma and the link to addiction have been known for decades, we’re just starting to zero-in on the science behind it.

This sort of trauma generally takes place in childhood, but it’s not necessarily an early developmental disorder. It’s not uncommon to see those with adult-onset trauma (loss of a loved one, stress, anxiety, physical or sexual assault, etc.) experience the same effects as those with early developmental trauma (physical or sexual assault, abandonment, adoption, divorce, etc.).

The link between psychiatric conditions and substance abuse isn’t new; in fact it even has a name – dual diagnosis. This is defined as having both a chemical dependency and a psychiatric condition. This sort of conditional link (trauma and substance abuse) appear to be caused by direct action, as opposed to the natural working of a brain that may be predisposed to certain psychiatric conditions (Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Eating Disorders and Schizophrenia – just to name a few). In short, the chemical dependency caused by trauma isn’t naturally occurring, but instead brought on by an event – or series of events – that, over time, changed the way in which the brain functions.

We’re just starting to realize that the dual diagnosis condition might not be enough to explain most cases of addiction. In fact, we’re beginning to see that trauma alone may be enough to lead to this sort of addictive behavior. What was once thought to be solely a link between mental conditions and addiction is actually much more complicated. It involves not just the addict and the condition itself, but the trauma, which may have led to the condition (although some of these conditions occur naturally and without major trauma).

Treatment options for these sorts of substance abuse triggers – both dual diagnosis conditions as well as trauma related addiction – are relatively similar. Studies suggest that the best treatment options for both dually diagnosed or trauma victims include gender-specific therapy. This sort of therapy allows the individual to discuss the circumstances surrounding their trauma as well as their mental health in a safe environment. Having a mutual understanding of what leads to these sorts of addictions – as well as on-going support – is the first step in recovering from them. Addiction is a complicated thing, and no one treatment works for everyone. The experts at Prescott House will help discuss an individual’s options on the best course of treatment for anyone’s individual situation.

Those with these sorts of addiction-related triggers often face difficult challenges to recovery, such as familial problems, un-employment, greater propensity for self-inflicted and outward violence, and legal problems.

The road to recovery might be long, but there are a variety of treatment programs at Prescott House for those with trauma-related addiction. The treatment itself takes the approach of healing the mind and body while giving the patient actionable steps toward recovery and making accountability goals and milestones in order to achieve the best results.

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