Trauma and Addiction: What’s the Connection?

illustration of man sitting on the ground upset - trauma

It’s no surprise that some people with trauma often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. To treat addiction effectively, it’s critical to acknowledge traumatic incidents in a way that’s affirming, supportive, and healing—instead of letting them fester and cause more harm.

The Dangers of Hidden Trauma

The Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center provides this definition: “Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.”

What’s worse is that for centuries, many people who suffer from trauma are often disregarded, shunned, or meant to feel guilt or shame through no fault of their own—all because others couldn’t face it.

Psychotherapy Networker cites early family trauma studies among noted psychiatrists in the 1800s, including Sigmund Freud, that they initially published but later repudiated, “because suggesting the occurrence of incest in upstanding middle-class families in Vienna was so disturbing to their colleagues.”

Terrifying trench warfare in World War I had a monumental impact on military members, who later suffered with shellshock, now known as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. “However, the British general staff put out an edict forbidding the military to use the word shellshock to describe the condition, because they assumed it would undermine the troops’ morale,” Psychotherapy Networker indicates, even though the consequences of armed conflict and its effects on veterans have been studied since the Civil War.

From sexual abuse revealed among clergy members to the resonating tragedy of gun violence in schools, both society and the medical community recognizes now how vital it is to not only acknowledge the impact of various types of trauma, but also to work progressively on trauma-informed solutions for better health.

Understanding the Types

The National Council on Behavioral Health (NCBH) indicates that 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one type of traumatic event in their lives: nearly 225 million people. More than 90 percent of clients in public behavioral health care have experienced trauma.

Medical News Today lists three categories of trauma, which we share verbatim:

  • Acute trauma: This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.
  • Chronic trauma: This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.
  • Complex trauma: This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

Within these categories are multiple incident catalysts:

  • Bullying
  • Community violence
  • Complex trauma
  • Disasters
  • Early childhood trauma
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Medical trauma
  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Refugee trauma
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sex trafficking
  • Terroism and violence
  • Traumatic grief

Some Statistics About the Connection

The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, founded by former Marine Charles Figley, provides some rather startling statistics about the connection between trauma and addiction:

  • Adolescents with PTSD are 4 times more likely than adolescents without PTSD to experience alcohol abuse or dependence, 6 times more likely to experience marijuana abuse or dependence, and 9 times more likely to experience hard drug abuse or dependence.”
  • Women exposed to traumatic life events show an increased risk for an alcohol use disorder.” How common might these incidents be? NCBH indicates that every 15 seconds, a woman is beaten—and every 6 minutes, is the victim of a forcible rape.
  • “Veterans over the age of 65 with PTSD are at increased risk for attempted suicide if they experience problematic alcohol use or depression.”
  • One-tenth to one-third of people who survive accident-, illness-, or disaster-related trauma report problematic alcohol use, especially if troubled by persistent health problems or pain.
  • “One-quarter to three-quarters of people who have survived abusive or violent traumatic experiences report problematic alcohol use.” This includes both men and women who are victims of sexual assault or abuse.

Additionally, people with trauma are more likely than others of a similar background to develop alcohol or drug dependency both before and after being diagnosed with PTSD. Extreme stress also causes other health issues, such as autoimmune issues, diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer.

Trauma-Informed Care at Willingway

Trauma and addiction often create a tragic repetitive cycle: trauma and PTSD might cause someone to develop maladaptive behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse, but then they continue to encounter more traumatic events because of these behaviors.

Whole-person healthcare must address all of an individual’s experiences and map a complete story of how events and reactions shape their life. At Willingway, trauma-informed therapy, gender-specific recovery groups, family therapy, and other techniques are the foundation of healing. Revealing factors of trauma, acknowledging them in a safe, controlled environment, and creating a recovery plan are key not only to addiction recovery, but also long-term wellness.

There’s never any reason to hide pain, and our caring staff won’t turn a blind eye to it. We’re available to help guide you toward the rewarding life you deserve. Just click the ‘Admissions’ tab above to connect to one of our professionals.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help right now: 1-800-273-8255.

Are you or a friend looking for a southern Georgia drug rehab? To find out more about services offered by Willingway contact us 24 hours a day at 888-979-2140, and let us help you get started on the road to recovery.Willingway - Addiction Treatment Experts

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