Our Team Talks Trauma and Addiction: Hugh Nash on the Opiate Epidemic

hugh nash

Hugh Nash, the Director of Business Development at Next Chapter Treatment, has worked in the field of addiction for over 26 years. He boasts extensive experience in counseling, program administration, admissions, and business development – though his true passion lies in helping addicts and their families. Having served in leadership positions at three prominent and renowned alcohol and drug treatment programs in the past, he understands the importance of treating trauma and substance dependency simultaneously. In 2010, Hugh received the “Professional of the Year” award in the state of Tennessee by TAADAC for his dedication and hard work in the realm of addiction recovery.  The immense passion that he has for his work stems from his own journey in recovery, which began in 1986.

This week, Hugh shares some of his personal insight regarding the current national heroin epidemic, which has been rapidly escalating and claiming hundreds of innocent lives on a daily basis.

Hugh Nash on Addiction and Trauma

Much has been said about our current opiate epidemic. Folks are dying at a record rate, especially young people. We have a generation being decimated. Young men and women go in and out of treatment at an alarming pace, until their insurance is zapped and their family’s bank accounts are emptied. Continuously returning to the only thing they know provides relief, even though they know it is killing them.

And then they die…and we say we can’t believe it.

I personally believe that people are actually dying as a result of their internal pain and their failure to connect; failure to connect with others emotionally and spiritually. Yes, the drug speeds up the process and ultimately ends their life. Certainly the potency and availability is unparalleled historically. But I believe that the current epidemic goes much deeper than that.

We hear the word ‘trauma’ a lot. We often think of it as a life altering event, which it definitely may be. However, trauma that results from one specific event is not always the trauma that dominate our lives. Often our trauma is relational, engrained in our very fabric from an early age. To many, this form of trauma does not seem like trauma at all. It has familial, societal and generational implications. What we experienced growing up is normal, right? We often feel that our dysfunction is universal, thus we fail to address it – or even acknowledge it. 

We live in a society that is submerged in technology rather than in authentic interpersonal relationships. Many global cultures suggest that it is normal to suffer in silence; that it is not okay to talk about what’s really going on, and it is certainly not okay to ask for help. Perhaps we come from families that only know enmeshment or abandonment, and have long-since been delivering messages that tell us it is not okay to feel our feelings. Sometimes there is overt abuse involving those who are supposed to protect us and care for us. When this abuse occurs, where can we go for help? Who can we possibly turn to? We feel alone and helpless, and thus we simply ‘carry on’.

Many of us think and feel that our upbringings were ‘fine’. The shaming, yelling, and silence… it was all just normal. Of course it was normal; it was all we knew. Getting to the root of the problem is certainly not about blame. As Pia Melody has said, “It’s about impact, not intent.” I believe, as painful as it is, we have to go back and deal with our past and its wounds if we are to have functional and fulfilled lives, the ability to connect, and any chance at recovery. Otherwise, we will continually return to those things that give us temporary relief, despite the fact that these are the very things that continue to keep us disconnected and eventually destroy us. Relapse triggers are not really things or places, but unresolved pain, relational trauma reactions, and connections we aren’t capable of having.


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