How Past Trauma Can Trigger an Addiction

A recent study in rehab facilities revealed a strong connection between childhood traumas and addiction. This research opened a much-needed understanding of how persons who have experienced traumatic events (not only childhood traumas) often seek out drugs and other harmful behaviors to cope with the trauma.

Childhood Trauma and Addiction

The research indicated that childhood traumas, such as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and witnessing domestic violence, can lead to addiction. The study showed that persons who had experienced childhood trauma were more likely to have a substance use disorder than those who had not experienced trauma. According to a study published in the journal “Addiction Research & Theory,” childhood trauma increases the odds of developing a substance use disorder by three times compared with people who have not suffered from childhood trauma.

In addition, those who had experienced both physical and sexual abuse were found to have the highest risk for addiction, which was eight times higher than those who had not experienced either type of abuse. Childhood experiences affect how you deal with situations, perceive yourself, or cope with a problem. For instance, a child with parents who had substance use disorder is likely to have experienced trauma. This is because substance abuse can be an attempt to cope with the trauma of being raised by substance-abusing parents.

The Trauma of Losing A Loved One and Addiction

Losing a loved one is a very traumatic experience, and if you cannot deal with the emotions of loss, often you will find yourself engaging in drugs or harmful activities to deal with the numbing pain or fill up the void left. When you lose a loved one, you should allow yourself to experience the grief. Take time off, talk to somebody, or seek professional help from a therapist.

War, Accidents, and Addiction

Veterans and accident victims are individuals listed to have a high propensity of developing an addiction. This is due to post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a disorder in which a person has recurring traumatic memories, such as war flashbacks or the sense that something terrible is about to happen. With PTSD, you may have an episode of anxiety and fear, or you may be afraid that you will do something wrong again, or worry that someone will harm you if you return home. PTSD is often associated with addiction. Patients who have PTSD result to drugs as an escape from their reality. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, such as feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability, it is important that you seek medical help immediately.

The Self-Medication Hypothesis

The self-medication hypothesis states that people with substance use disorders turn to drugs because they help them cope with negative emotions. The Dutch scientist Jelle Jolles originally proposed this theory in his book “Drugs and the Self.” He argued that people addicted to drugs tend to use them primarily for emotional reasons rather than physical ones. They turn to drugs to help them manage the negative emotions that they experience. To support Jelle’s argument is the new phenomenon still under the study of prescription-based addiction.

Prescription-based addiction starts as a legitimate medical issue but then degenerates into a behavior driven by the need to self-medicate. This behavior can be seen in people who have been prescribed painkillers for legitimate medical reasons. The phenomenon of prescription-based addiction is not well understood, so there are no clear answers as to why it occurs or how to stop it. However, some suggestions may help explain this new development in drug abuse. One suggestion is that prescription drugs can become more potent, making them more addictive. Another suggestion is that the drugs help people manage their emotions and manage their depression, anxiety, and irritability symptoms.

Dealing with Past Trauma

The best way to deal with addiction is by finding the root cause. This is the only way to ensure that you can stop the behavior. The root cause of addiction will be found in childhood experiences, which may have been traumatic in one way or another. The first step to recovery is admitting your problem and seeking help from a professional who can help guide you through the steps needed to overcome your addiction. By speaking to a therapist, you will be able to recognize past traumas, know the triggers, and how to deal with them. This will be effective in mitigating the occurrence of a relapse. If you recognize a pattern of behavior that may indicate an addict, contact us via 302-842-2390.