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Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Trauma is a subjective concept, meaning that it is up to the individual’s experience(s) and interpretations of that/those experiences that truly define a person’s perception as something traumatic. Therefore, it’s not up to a therapist, family members, or anyone else to decide whether or not an experience was traumatic. And this is of utmost importance when treating someone with unresolved trauma. Something else to keep in mind is that experiences of trauma lead to addiction in many cases.

Meaning of the Term ‘Trauma’ 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), defines trauma in broad terms: it is a stress that “causes physical or emotional harm from which you cannot remove yourself.”Specifically, trauma can stem from abuse or neglect; it can also result from other frightening experiences, such as a car accident, bullying, sudden life change or near-death experience.

Not surprisingly, other traumatic experiences that lead to traumatic experiences involve growing up in a home with an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent. Because of their unresolved trauma, the person can develop intense and serious long-term struggles with depression, anxiety. It is this perfect storm that often leads to the use of substances as a form of self-medicating the psychological pain and perhaps as a way to suppress memories. This, in turn, begs the question: does trauma lead to addiction?

Findings on Trauma and Addiction

A study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research confirmed what many professionals in the treatment field have long observed in their patients. A history of childhood neglect or sexual, physical or emotional abuse is common among people undergoing treatment for alcoholism and may be a factor in their development of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Findings were that there is an 8.4% of abuse rates among the general population however, amongst alcoholics, 24% of men and 33% of women alcoholics also had experienced trauma. The rate of sexual abuse in the general population is about 6%, yet the rate amongst alcoholics is 12% for men and 49% for women. When it comes to rates of childhood emotional abuse and neglect, there are overall increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicide and behavioral problems later in life, which can lead to substance abuse and addiction.

Relationship: Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Unresolved trauma is often at the heart of someone’s addiction issues. People with trauma are either prescribed certain medications to treat their symptoms or else begin using certain substances in order to self-medicate. They find it painful to be reminded of their past traumas and, for some, they relive the traumatic event or events on a daily basis and therefore they will turn to drugs, alcohol, or certain behaviors in order to escape reality or else to numb their feelings of intense fear, paralyzing powerlessness, depression, and anxiety.

Trauma is disproportionately higher among women. It’s somewhat widely known that women are more often the victim of some form of abuse than their male counterparts. Many female drug addicts are also dealing with ongoing, unresolved trauma. It is important for these women to have safe access to treatment. The Orchid Program is a top-rated gender-specific women’s treatment program that specializes in drug and alcohol rehabilitation along with trauma resolution. The staff at the Orchid specializes in women’s drug treatment as well as women’s issues, such as trauma, gender roles, family issues and, the impact of women’s addictions on the family and community at large. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, trauma and addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

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