Trauma and Addiction

Early childhood abuse and neglect are pretty reliable factors in the lives of many a recovering addict. As more and more studies are held on the contributing factors of addictive disorders, it becomes clearer and clearer that individuals do not merely become addicted to drugs because drugs are addictive. Most cases of addiction are far more complicated than that. In simple terms – addiction is not caused by drug use alone. Childhood trauma and other significant environmental and emotional factors of early development have repeatedly proven successful in determining who will develop addictive tendencies and who will not. Our early life experiences seem to pave the way for our future ability to adequately cope with and handle high-stress circumstances. For example – those who are brought up in calm, consistent, and nurturing households are more likely to prosper in most environments, while those who are raised amidst chaos, anger, and an incessant lack of necessity will typically be predisposed to fight or flee – and use drugs and alcohol as a means of emotional survival.

Trauma and Addiction Can Be Closely Related

Some degree of stress can be beneficial, seeing as learning of any kind requires some stress. When handed out in small, manageable doses, stress helps individuals build up a tough skin and a healthy ability to cope. However, excessive and unpredictable amounts of severe stress can be traumatic, contributing to an increased probability of turning to chemical substance later on in life. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which focused on 17,000 adults enrolled in California’s Kaiser Permanente insurance program, identified innumerable cases of direct relationships between severe childhood stress and trauma and a wide variety of addictive disorders, ranging from overeating to substance dependency. Some stress-related circumstances that the study took into account were: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, having an incarcerated parent, living in a home with an addicted parent, losing a parent (either to death or divorce), having a mentally ill parent, or growing up in a domestically abusive environment. Children who underwent one or more adverse childhood experiences were found to be significantly more prone to drug and alcohol abuse later on in life. A child who has undergone four or more significant adverse experiences is five times as likely to become an alcoholic as a child who has not undergone any traumatizing experiences, and a young boy who has undergone four or more ACEs is 46 times more likely to become an intravenous drug user somewhere down the line. 46 times more likely.

Stress Can Lead to Addictive Tendencies Later on in Life

Children who have undergone multiple forms of traumatic stressors throughout their childhoods are decidedly more prone to developing addictive tendencies later on in life. Because stress and trauma (such as public humiliation, emotional abuse, and neglect) are contributing factors of addiction, it makes sense to treat those suffering from addictive disorders with exactly the opposite – compassion and understanding. We at Next Chapter believe that the best way to treat substance dependency and related disorders is through empathy and healthy support. We work closely alongside our patients in a therapeutic and accepting environment, uncovering underlying contributing factors and working through them with a combination intensive (and repeatedly proven) therapeutic methodologies and social support. For more information on our program of recovery, please contact us today. We look forward to speaking with you soon.