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The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

The Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Studies have shown that individuals who experience childhood trauma are more likely to struggle with addiction. It can also cause long-lasting depression, anxiety, and even mental illness. However, there are other significantly important aspects of childhood trauma that can lead a person to substance abuse in an adult’s life. 

Childhood Trauma

Childhood Trauma generally refers to a physically or emotionally painful or distressful experience that occurs during the childhood years. These events could threaten their family, safety, and/or bodily integrity. 

For example, physical/sexual abuse or dysfunction in the home are traumatic events that many children unfortunately experience. However, events do not need to be reoccurring to be considered traumatic. There are many different types of events that can have a lasting psychological effect on a person.

Types of Childhood Trauma

  • Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse
  • Neglect
  • Separation from a parent
  • Bullying
  • Violence
  • Natural disasters
  • Loss or grief
  • Complex trauma
  • Invasive medical procedures
  • Substance use disorder in the family
  • War experiences
  • Life-threatening illness

Connecting the Dots

During childhood and adolescence, the brain is continually growing and creating neural pathways and connections. The experiences endured during this stage will determine the brain’s eventual physical structure. Experiences can be beneficial or detrimental to a child’s developing brain. 

Assessments of individuals with frequent childhood trauma and stress have shown to slow typical brain functioning and growth. These structural anomalies presumably caused these individuals to be susceptible to addiction. 

Though these connections seem clear, the verdict is not out yet if brain structure is solely responsible for this predisposition to addiction. Another hypothesis is that children who are subject to traumatic events often depend on loved ones for support. If loved ones are unavailable due to addiction, or other reasons, children may self-medicate. They may adapt this coping mechanism on their own, or by learning addiction behavior from adults in the home. Consequently, the younger a child begins abusing substances increases their chance of adulthood addiction. 

Adults Battling Addiction

Statistics show that roughly two-thirds of adults struggling with addiction have experienced physical or sexual childhood trauma. What do we do with this information? 

Additionally, childhood trauma can cause PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) in adults. Harm Reduction Center offers treatment for PTSD and addiction simultaneously as part of the Dual Diagnosis treatment program. At Harm Reduction Center, we understand the importance of addressing the connection between addiction and childhood trauma. Many factors overlap and aggravate both conditions. 

Treatment Options for Addiction

Whether you participate in in-patient or out-patient treatment we provide therapy to work through the trauma endured by our clients. This is to give them the best chance at long-term recovery. When a person is suffering and needs a safe place to detox or to receive individualized attention for mental illness, inpatient treatment is vital. 

If necessary, professionals utilize medication to aid in the detox process. Patients dealing with emotional and mental health issues and substance abuse will have a personalized plan of action. Outpatient treatment may be intensive depending on the individual’s needs. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a specialized therapy that is used to treat dual diagnoses. This helps patients address mental health disorders and substance abuse concurrently. CBT can help to identify behaviors that are connected to their issues when combined with traditional treatments. 

Family therapy is often used to provide the patient with guidance, hope, and support. When substance abuse is present, group therapy is also helpful. Attending sessions with a licensed therapist helps groups of people who are trying to overcome the same issues. Peer support is a valuable tool that benefits all who are involved. 

At Harm Reduction Center we offer a diverse range of therapies and treatments to support our clients and see them through the other side of this difficult time. If you or someone you know is seeking treatment options for addiction, please contact us today.