Trauma and addiction are often found to be connected to each other. Trauma has been a primary cause for addictions along with several mental health disorders.
Trauma is described by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “as any event” or a combination of “circumstances experienced by an individual” as “life-threatening or “physically or emotionally harmful.” Trauma tends to impact an individual’s ability to function on several levels negatively.
It is important to understand that trauma is based on individual perception, and what is traumatic can vary from person to person. Domestic violence, combat, natural and environmental disasters, and sexual assault can result in trauma and manifest in many forms.
Effects of Trauma and Unhealthy Ways of Coping
Because of trauma and its effects, managing negative emotions associated with it could become difficult for some individuals. They then seek unhealthy ways of coping, and one of the most used channels is substance abuse. For several of them, trauma could often be chronic and may continue to affect them over several years. Additionally, risky and harmful behaviour with substance use and addiction could also lead a traumatic event.
Turning to Substance Abuse and Addiction
Several people opt for substance abuse after experiencing a traumatic event. They want to negate the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is a direct result of trauma. Common symptoms include hypersensitivity, depression, insomnia, and social withdrawals. People depend on alcohol and drugs initially to ward off these symptoms, but addiction then cuts down on trauma’s healing avenues. The addiction over time becomes physically and emotionally damaging just like the trauma itself damaged them previously.
Need of Trauma-Informed Care and Future Path in Addiction Treatment
Trauma and substance abuse continue to be concurrent disorders, and they both need to be addressed simultaneously for promoting long-term recovery.
Here are some ways one can do that:
- Trauma-informed treatment services aids in facilitating an integrated approach to intervention and helps in healing the person’s psyche and maladies simultaneously
- Trauma-informed care practitioners leverage healthy coping mechanisms to help individuals deal with trauma and make them hopeful for recovery.
- Taking a trauma-informed perspective makes participants feel safe, giving them agency and voice during the treatment process
- The care helps in reducing rates of dropping out, and optimizes treatment effectiveness too
- Integrating trauma treatment into substance abuse and addiction treatment programs is touted to make long term effects on sobriety especially by addressing underlying trauma symptoms
Current studies lack random assignment sometimes, and it becomes difficult to separate effects of specific elements the therapy from the intervention as a whole. Also niche studies cannot be generalized to other genders, demographics, races, and the like. Future research needs to address gaps in medical literature and continue to further innovate interventions for an integrated overlap of substance abuse and trauma treatment. The intersections between trauma-informed care and treatment of substance abuse should be explored. The principles and treatments can aid a trauma-informed network of services to drastically affect individuals and give them the opportunity for swift healing and wellness.