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The Link Between Addiction and Childhood Trauma

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Research into the link between addiction and childhood trauma provides a solid foundation for the use of trauma therapy for those with a substance use disorder. Unresolved trauma in childhood has a profound and long-lasting effect on mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Exploring the trauma-induced thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors a child develops to cope with their experience can be helpful in healing and recovery. Understanding, compassion, and empathy can move mountains for those in treatment, and trauma-informed therapy reveals the damage childhood trauma produces and how to manage it. 

How Childhood Trauma Leads to Addiction

The relationship between childhood trauma and addiction stems from the fact that trauma hurts developing thought processes and brain development. The brain is still growing in childhood, and traumatic events can negatively affect how the brain’s structure develops.

Trauma produces intense stress levels that cause structural problems in the brain. Childhood experiences directly influence the plasticity and neural connections in the brain. This can result in a higher risk of addiction later in life. 

Addiction, Mental Health and Trauma

Trauma, mental health, and addiction are closely related illnesses researchers have been making great strides in treatment options. The successful implementation of trauma-informed care in the treatment of addiction and childhood trauma speaks volumes to a positive and healthy impact on the health and well-being of their clients.

Trauma and drug abuse tie in closely with the development of co-occurring mental health conditions. Treating these conditions separately but simultaneously is imperative for longevity in sobriety. 

Addiction treatment that includes trauma-informed care is an invaluable tool in providing a healing, resilient, supportive, and safe environment to promote personal growth. Addictions and trauma take away an individual’s power to fight, while the principles of TIC promote empowerment and trust-building skills for improved self-confidence and self-esteem.

According to a study published in The National Library of Medicine, 90% of people who seek treatment for an SUD have experienced trauma. The study also accentuates successful outcomes for staff satisfaction, retention, commitment, and performance, ultimately benefiting the patients. 

Dual Diagnosis: Addiction to Cope with Trauma

Dual diagnosis occurs when addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition exist. Specializing treatment options to include an individual plan for each client allows for addressing unique needs and unresolved traumas.

Addictions and traumas commonly go hand in hand. Using protocols to facilitate whole-person healing and growth with individuals with this diagnosis has proven highly effective. In many cases, it is difficult to say if the mental health condition came first or the substance use disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder is typically trauma-based and responds very well to trauma-induced care, as well as evidence-based therapies.

Learning holistic techniques to manage the whole person is also highly effective. Mindfulness, relaxation breathing, and meditation are valuable for dual-diagnosis patients.

The Link Between Trauma and Drug Abuse

Addiction and childhood trauma connect through unresolved traumas that increase an individual’s vulnerability to addiction. Initially, trauma in childhood remains unprocessed. Escalating the level of distress, pain, hurt, and scarring that takes place, the developing brain is unable to reflect, process, and resolve the trauma.

These negativities decay over time until seeking relief from the stress; drugs or alcohol are coping mechanisms for relief and often mirror their parents’ coping mechanisms. 

Signs of Unhealthy Childhood Trauma

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that childhood trauma can have profound adverse effects on adults. The data from their study found that nearly 16% of adults report 4 or more adverse childhood experiences that resulted in poor health outcomes, health risk behaviors, and socio-economic challenges.

Physical and mental health challenges are widely associated with obesity, depression, COPD, and heavy drinking. Childhood trauma and addiction connect to adult substance use disorders, suicide, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. 

Types of Treatment

Trauma-informed care lays the foundation for a safe and supportive environment for individuals to focus on their well-being and personal growth. Cognitive-behavioral therapy integrates with this vital care, and holistic therapies offer lifelong tools for relapse prevention. Lifestyle education teaches individuals how to support their recovery with nutrition and exercise. If medication is a viable option to manage a mental health condition, it is another option for treatment.

Those using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism for unresolved childhood trauma may find relief as the only way to calm their inner turmoil and stress. Trauma and drug abuse typically appear in adulthood with a co-existing mental health condition.

Researchers gathering data on trauma in childhood have found that trauma-informed care is highly effective when added to the treatment plan with other established therapies. Innovative treatment centers train their staff to utilize this form of care to streamline the recovery process. 

The essential components of trauma-informed care for individuals with addiction and childhood trauma issues are:

  • Safe and supportive environment
  • Trustworthiness and transparency
  • Empowerment and choice
  • Collaboration and mutuality
  • Cultural humility and responsiveness
  • Resilience and strength-based approach

Seek Innovative and Specialized Treatment Options in California

For individuals who are searching for a whole-person treatment approach with options that address their needs, Sierra Health + Wellness understands your goals and recovery plans. The compassionate and empathetic staff realize that each person has a history that may require individual attention. Their programs are highly effective and include many options to reach out to address all needs.

Contact the center for more information and immediately realize the sense of safety and support.