What are the leading causes of addiction? Could it be hereditary? What about peer pressure, poverty, or toxic stress? All of these can play a role, but there is another factor that is known to have a bigger impact.
Physical or sexual violence occurring during childhood, neglect, and veterans who are diagnosed with PTSD are just a few scenarios that most of us have heard of before.
Many have “taken the edge off” after a stressful day of work before, so it makes sense that people who have suffered from some sort of traumatic event use drugs or alcohol to help numb their pain.
If you or a loved one are currently struggling with addiction and can relate to the different kinds of trauma below, this might be the underlying cause of the addiction. If that’s the case, it’s important that trauma is treated along with the addiction.
Unresolved Traumatic Events from Childhood Can Hinder Long-Term Recovery
Childhood trauma can be so impactful, even years after the abuse or neglect ends, because a child’s brain is still in development. The frequent and high levels of stress that occur while a child experiences something traumatic can impede brain development. Results from multiple studies have proven that this level of stress causes victims of childhood trauma to be more vulnerable to substance abuse in adulthood.
Experiencing physical or sexual violence, neglect, or other forms of abuse can affect anyone at any age. But these traumatic events imprint children differently. It’s much more impactful for children because they rely on their parents or other members of their family that they trust for guidance and protection. If these family members abuse that trust and are the cause of trauma for the child, they no longer have a support system that they desperately need.
Creating this foundation of toxic stress and trauma while a child’s brain is still developing basically wires their brain differently, and makes it much more difficult to grow and function normally as a child, and later on in adulthood.
It makes sense that an adult would feel anxiety, shame, and sorrow after going through something traumatic as a child, right? Survivors of childhood trauma usually need comfort, and sometimes that source of comfort is drugs or alcohol. This makes even more sense when survivors have learned that comfort can’t be found with those who they’re supposed to trust.
How can one recover from childhood trauma and addiction? It seems almost impossible to recover from that kind of pain, but you or your loved one have options. Many treatment centers, including Michael’s House, offer dual-diagnosis treatment to treat the addiction along with underlying causes, such as childhood trauma.
If you’re a survivor of childhood trauma, know that you are not alone and the trauma you experienced is not your fault! In 2015, there were over 500,000 alleged cases of child abuse and neglect in California and it’s highly likely for many of them to engage in risky behaviors, including abusing drugs or alcohol, due to their trauma. 
Recent Traumatic Events Occurring in Adulthood Can Link to Addiction
Adulthood trauma may not sound as familiar to you compared to childhood trauma, but it’s still very real and can cause serious issues in one’s life.
Do you know anyone that has been sexually assaulted as an adult? Or anyone that has lost a loved one unexpectedly? Or an adult that was impacted by a deadly car accident? If so, it can be likely for them to turn to drugs or alcohol while they’re grieving.
When someone experiences a traumatic event, they normally have painful flashbacks or memories of the traumatic incident, panic attacks, outbursts of anger, and feeling emotionally numb in the wake of their trauma. 
We know that traumatic events occurring during one’s childhood can cause serious issues later on in adulthood. But what you may not know is that adulthood trauma can cause more damage to an older person’s health than childhood trauma. 
This is why it’s so important for you or a loved one to seek professional help after a traumatizing experience. If someone goes through trauma and it’s not treated, it’s likely that they don’t know how to cope in healthy ways. This is when using drugs or alcohol to cope becomes extremely common for survivors of trauma. If you’re worried about a loved one who has experienced a traumatic event, it may be time to help them get professional treatment.
Veterans with a PTSD Diagnosis are Vulnerable to Addiction
War can be one of the most harrowing experiences that someone goes through. How many veterans are affected by trauma due to their experience in war, and how likely is it for them to turn to drugs or alcohol because of their trauma
It’s probably not surprising to you that most of the trauma veterans experience is from combat, and it’s sometimes to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with it.
Veterans who struggle with their daily lives after returning home may use drugs or alcohol to numb their pain. But, other layers to this issue aren't discussed as much. For example, you may not know that one in four female veterans have experienced sexual assault during their time in the military, which can also cause PTSD. 
Another serious issue you may not be familiar with is how likely it is for veterans to be addicted to anxiety or pain medications, which are normally prescribed for PTSD diagnoses. Veterans can become addicted to medications like OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax, and Ambien. These drugs can offer an escape from the trauma they’re still experiencing in their minds, but is not a healthy way to cope with it. If an addiction has developed along with PTSD, it’s called a dual diagnosis and it’s important to reach out to a professional that treats both the PTSD and the addiction.
An addiction center that offers dual diagnosis treatment, like Michael’s House, can help veterans cope with mental health issues and recover from addiction. Getting to the root cause of addiction is essential to have a chance of long-term recovery.
Where Can You Turn for Trauma and Addiction Treatment?
Admitting a traumatic experience isn’t easy for anyone. Opening up about abuse, neglect, how losing a loved one has affected you, PTSD, or other incidents of trauma takes a lot of courage.
Michael’s House offers dual diagnosis treatment and trauma-informed care that can help you or a loved one move on from past trauma and get on the path to recovery from addiction. Our master’s level clinicians can help you or a loved one get life back on track.
When Trauma Slips into Addiction. December 17, 2018. Deena McMahon.
Exposure to Childhood Abuse and Later Substance Use: Indirect Effects of Emotion Dysregulation and Exposure to Trauma. October 2016. Amar Mandavia, Gabriella G. N. Robinson, Bekh Bradley, Kerry J. Ressler, and Abigail Powers.
Child Abuse and Neglect in California. Retrieved August 2019.
Emotional and Psychological Trauma. Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. June 2019.
Cumulative Trauma in Adulthood Can Worsen Health in Later Years, Says New Research. Neal Krause, Ph.D., Benjamin A. Shaw, Ph.D., John Cairney, Ph.D. Retrieved August 2019.
PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans. Retrieved August 2019.
Military Sexual Trauma – MST. Retrieved August 2019.