Most people who struggle with addiction also struggle with mental health disorders that have heavily impacted their drug use. If someone is experiencing emotional or mental distress, they might turn to drugs to cope, stemming from trauma. Trauma and substance use often go hand-in-hand, as trauma informs how you handle emotional and mental stress. 

If you have experienced more wrongdoings and trauma throughout your life, there is a chance that you didn’t learn how to properly cope with adverse events as a child. These events can lead to a person self-medicating, which is when they attempt to feel better through substances. Most substances allow a person to “get away” from the reality of their situations, which for some is how they learned to cope with emotions.

It’s essential to recognize how trauma and addiction work together so that you can offer proper treatment to those in need.

What Is Addiction?

Substance use disorder (SUD) is what an addiction stems from. Abusing substances daily, even though they are causing rifts in your life, is what classifies an addiction, especially when you cannot control your usage of it. A person’s brain structure will be altered when they have an addiction, causing intense cravings, abnormal movements, and personality changes. 

You become somewhat obsessed with the substance you are using, unable to stop yourself from using it, and not function without it. Your brain and body will adjust to the substance and accept it as normal so that when you go without it, you will begin to feel ill. Addiction is a vicious disease that controls your behaviors and limits your ability to succeed. Those who struggle with addiction often need support as it’s challenging to recover from substance use disorder alone.

Many things can lead to addiction, making it more likely that you suffer from it. Addictive personality behaviors can run in families, so if you have a loved one who struggles with substance use disorder, you might be at a higher risk of abusing substances you use. Some people become addicted to substances after being prescribed medications like opioids for pain. There doesn’t have to be trauma to have substance use disorder, but it’s often found linked together, which is important to know when understanding you or a loved one’s addiction. 

Let’s Talk About Trauma

When we think of trauma, we often think about a really horrific, gory, close-to-death experience that someone might have. This can indeed be an example of trauma, but trauma doesn’t have to be so dramatic for it to have a long-lasting negative effect on a person. 

Trauma is an emotional response to a horrific event. Different individuals will have a different definition of what “horrific” is. Some people will experience shock, denial, and confusion immediately after the event and might experience panic attacks. In addition, they may experience flashbacks, emotional distress, headaches, or insomnia. You can experience a traumatic event at any point in your life and then develop different issues because of it. No two people will experience the same trauma as well as have the same reaction to it. 

Some ways you can develop trauma are:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Car accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Verbal abuse
  • Parental neglect
  • Chronic disease

People learn to cope in different ways, and not all of them are healthy. Finding comfort in substances is often one method of coping that works for those who are dealing with a lot of emotional distress. At least 62% of people have experienced a traumatic childhood event. Still, those who have trauma after trauma piled on top of them are more likely to develop a substance use disorder as there is never any moment for peace to reestablish and recuperate from the last event. 

Addiction and Trauma Working Together

Those that have experienced lots of trauma throughout their lives often experience more emotional distress that they don’t know how to deal with. These emotions can be overwhelming and lead to different mental disorders that require treatment but can be hard to get. When you experience trauma, how the situation is handled afterward can also impact the way that you learn to cope. Finding a way to feel pleasure when much of your experience is related to pain and trauma can relieve and allow people to escape their reality. 

Some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of these horrific events. People with PTSD experience flashbacks, panic attacks, and other physical symptoms when reminded of their trauma. It’s believed that if you have PTSD, you are three times as likely to abuse substances than someone without it. 

This is why many people who have experienced trauma end up misusing substances. The momentary pleasure that using drugs has on people is much greater than what they are used to feeling. For some people, using substances is a way to forget about the trauma they have experienced, and for others, it’s to achieve a certain level of happiness that they aren’t used to. No matter why someone uses it and no matter what they’ve gone through, they deserve to get better and receive help for their disorders. 

How To Treat Addiction and Trauma

When it comes to treating trauma-related addiction, you cannot treat one without the other. The two are working together, constantly encouraging the other. Professional addiction treatment is recommended for those struggling with trauma and substance use disorder because they need to be treated together. There needs to be a more personalized approach to the treatment. 

For you to work on your substance use disorder, you must heal from past traumas. This doesn’t mean forgetting they ever happened and moving on from them, but instead finding ways to cope with their reality. By going through cognitive and behavioral therapy programs, you can begin to unpack the traumas in your life and figure out how to make changes. Once you have dived into your past trauma and understood them better, with the help of professionals, you can look into the intersection of addiction.

Everyone experiences trauma and is impacted by substance use disorder differently. Finding a recovery center that works with you can be difficult. Soba Recovery can help make an individualized approach to treatment, offers detoxification methods, group therapy sessions, and provides unconditional support that will genuinely benefit you in the long run. We have everything you need to be successful in dealing with your trauma and your addiction.

Soba Recovery Centers

Soba Recovery Centers are located in both Mesa, Arizona, and San Antonio, Texas. We offer detoxification, inpatient, outpatient, sober living programs to people dealing with substance use disorder. We want to pinpoint exactly what impacts your addiction so that we can efficiently treat you

We offer group therapy, individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and physical activities like yoga and meditation to help treat your individual needs. At Soba Recovery, there is something for everyone. Your trauma should not hold back on progress to be made on your addiction, and they should be dealt with at the same time.

Consider reaching out to a representative to talk about how Soba could be right for you!



What Is Addiction? | American Psychiatric Association

Trauma and Shock | American Psychological Association 

What is Trauma? | Trauma-Informed Care Implementation Resource Center

PTSD & Addiction | PTSD Alliance  

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