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Trauma and Substance Abuse

 In addiction

Trauma and substance abuse have been found to have a strong correlation. In fact, they are so often linked in such a way that it is difficult to know which came first in an individual without individual exploration. This correlation has led to a widespread need for rehab programs to develop programs that address not only the substance abuse but the effects of any past trauma. This correlation is even stronger in individuals who suffer from PTSD. An example of this can be found in military veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than twenty percent of veterans with PTSD also have substance abuse problems. In addition, a full third of those veterans seeking help for substance abuse problems also suffer from PTSD. Trauma and PTSD don’t only affect veterans.

Who Experiences Trauma

Trauma is described as any event that an individual simply can’t deal with. This event leaves the person in fear. They feel helpless and at risk of either physical or psychological harm or even death. The event is something beyond the individuals’ control and can cause feelings of helplessness, confusion, powerlessness, and terror, among other things. The individual does not necessarily have to be the victim of the event but can also be an observer, such as someone who witnesses a murder or watched parents fight constantly. The triggering event can be a one-time event like a tornado or fire or something that lasts long-term, such as domestic violence, war, or sexual abuse. It is unclear why some people develop PTSD from trauma while others don’t but the strength of an individual’s coping skills may have something to do with it. Another factor may be genetics.

The Trauma-Substance Abuse Connection

In those who seek help for a substance abuse problem, as many as 75 percent have been exposed to trauma. This trauma does not have to have occurred before the onset of the substance abuse, as the substance abuse itself creates a situation that can expose the abuser to trauma. Let’s explore both cases.

The feelings that come with a traumatic experience can cause lasting emotional pain such as depression. An individual may experience feelings of being helpless or may relive the trauma over and over again in their mind, both as flashbacks while awake and during dreams. If this individual sees those around him going forward without seeming to have lasting effects, they may be afraid to admit they have not gotten past it. Many times they will turn to something to help ease the emotional pain. This can be something to make them relax or maybe something to help alleviate the heaviness of depression. Eventually, trying to move away from the substance will again trigger the feelings the individual was trying to mask.

For those who haven’t experienced trauma but have come about their addiction in another way, such as genetics catching up with them over time as they spent days drinking during the teen years or curiosity led them to try a certain drug that led to addiction, the substance abuse can lead to trauma. People who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to drive while under the influence, often resulting in car accidents. They find themselves in bad areas of town, maybe lost and confused when they wake up after a particularly active night. They are more prone to violent attacks on themselves and being in situations where they experience things like violence toward others or overdoses. This can lead to further substance abuse to try and block out the feelings. It becomes a vicious circle.

Complex Treatment

Individuals who enter our rehab program at lake Hughes Recovery are thoroughly evaluated to find out what may have caused the initial turning to substance abuse. We believe that simply treating the addiction does no good if the cause is still there. When there is something like a mental disorder or PTSD also going on within an individual, it is called a dual diagnosis. This requires a more complex treatment path. Once the body is detoxed, the individual will not only undergo counseling to help him learn how to cope with future stressors and face life clean and sober but he will also be given tools to help heal the wounds created by trauma. This may include individual counseling, or group and family counseling. By getting to the basis of the problem, we can help you increase your chances of success going forward.

If you have been dealing with a substance abuse problem, today is the best time to take steps to move forward and leave that problem in the past. We believe in treating you as an individual and will work to give you the kind of help that is best suited to heal. Contact us today.

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