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The Connection between Trauma and Addiction

The majority of people that have become addicted to drugs and alcohol have a reason behind initially starting to abuse substances. Data from the National Survey of Adolescents indicated that as many as one in four adolescents have a traumatic experience at least once before their 16th birthday. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is present in at least one in eight 17 year olds in the country.

3 Minute Read | Published Aug 22 2023 | Updated Mar 04 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Amber Asher
Reviewed by

What is the Connection between Trauma and Addiction?

But what does PTSD have to do with drug and alcohol addiction? In this article, we will explore the connection between trauma and addiction.

Trauma and Addiction Statistics

By reviewing the trauma and addiction statistics, the connection between trauma and addiction starts to become clear. In 2003, the National Survey on Adolescents reported that among the teens who had experienced sexual abuse had a three times higher risk of forming an addiction than those who had no trauma in their past. In a later study in 2007, as many as 70% of the adolescents that were undergoing treatment also had past traumatic experiences. It is not far-fetched to say that trauma leads to addiction, or at least greatly increases the chances of an addiction forming.

Why do People with PTSD Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

People living with post-traumatic stress disorder are often overwhelmed by their symptoms. The symptoms that people commonly experience with this condition include guilt, loneliness, emotional detachment, flashbacks, fear, self-destructive behavior and social isolation.

The areas of the brain that are most affected by the trauma include the hippocampus, amygdala and the cortex. The amygdala is responsible for assessing threats and it becomes overactive in PTSD, constantly on the lookout for threats and seeing them where there are none. The hippocampus, responsible for memories, becomes underactive. This results in memories getting stuck in a present-day loop causing the person to experience the same disturbing memories over and over. The cortex is responsible for your control over your actions. In PTSD cases, a person’s survival instincts override their logical thinking. It also causes a decreased cognitive processing capability and limits a person’s ability to stop behaviors, such as drug abuse.

In the event that their symptoms aren’t properly treated and managed, there is a tendency for people to turn to the abuse of drugs and alcohol to attempt to self-medicate. This is one way in which trauma leads to addiction. The connection between trauma and addiction is then created by the lack of treatment for the initial issue: the trauma.

Dual Diagnosis

In treatment, the connection between trauma and addiction has allowed rehabs to be more effective at treating co-occurring mental disorders such as PTSD and drug abuse. Dual diagnosis is a treatment that incorporates research-based therapy and treatment approaches with effective ways to treat and manage PTSD symptoms. It is crucial that both disorders be treated at the same time. If only the addiction was treated, the symptoms of PTSD would likely cause the person to turn to substance abuse again in order to cope. Most of the top rehab facilities are able to give effective treatments for both of the conditions simultaneously, resulting in better long-term recovery for their patients.

Living with a mental disorder such as PTSD can change many aspects of a person’s life. When substance abuse becomes involved in the equation, the situation can quickly go from bad to worse. By finding dual diagnosis treatment at a rehab facility, such as the ones found at Better Addiction Care, you or the person you love can find the help they need to go on to lead normal, happy lives. Call us today at (800) 429-7690 for help finding treatment of more information.


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