The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction

01/29/19: Addiction
Not very long ago, almost everyone considered addiction as a moral failing and an inability to control behavior. Recent advances in science have changed that fallacy in thinking into an understanding that the medical condition represents a “chronic, relapsing disease” that has no relationship with moral failure. However, taking the time to understand the connection between trauma and addiction can help those suffering from with substance abuse.

Understanding the Terminology

Addiction and trauma have an inextricable link that keeps them closely tied together. However, each constitutes a significant and influential effect on anyone who experiences either or both.


Psychology Today cites addiction as the use of substances or behaviors to achieve rewarding effects despite “detrimental consequences.” Scientific evidence confirms that addictive substances and behaviors share a “neurological feature” that makes the brain react in certain ways. They activate the reward and reinforcement pathways, and scientists can pinpoint the area in the brain where each addictive stimulant produces an effect. Sophisticated imaging removes the concept of morality from consideration and shows that addiction affects the brain’s circuits. The changes that it creates go far beyond the reward system, and they can even affect the ability to learn, remember, control impulses and manage stress.


The incidence of trauma occurs at a rate that may exceed more than you can imagine. The American Psychological Association cites a traumatic event as one that “threatens physical integrity” and produces “horror, terror or helplessness” when it occurs. Studies present remarkable results that show more than 66 percent of children under 16 years of age experience a traumatic event. The rate of exposure for children and adolescents to more than one event produces an even higher statistic. An event that causes someone to seek professional help may have occurred after one or more episodes. Children who have one traumatic experience have a significant vulnerability to the “impact of subsequent trauma.” The rate of exposure of youth to sexual violence ranges from 25 to 43 percent, and the occurrence of victimization by community violence goes as high as 66 percent. In a study of one year’s requests for emergency treatment, almost 8 million children had “unintentional injuries.” Trauma resulted from falls, fires, near drowning and automobile crashes. However, more than 400,000 children suffered injuries from violence.

Seeing the Addiction and Trauma Connection

When you think that you stand alone in facing trauma and addiction at the same time, you can find the facts in university studies that prove the opposite. Psychological trauma may not cause addiction, but many victims of it turn to drugs and stimulants to reduce the overwhelming sensations that can occur. Even though addiction can worsen the effects  of trauma, the temporary relief from PTSD, agitation, depression and hypersensitivity to loud noises can make trauma victims choose it as an alternative. A combination of addiction and trauma can create a situation that allows each condition to feed off the other. Addiction causes trauma when it leads to making poor decisions such as driving drunk or committing a crime. The pain of psychological trauma can cause addiction when it leads to developing a reliance on drugs and stimulants.

Understanding the Statistics

Government data indicates that post-traumatic stress disorder occurs commonly among people who have drug addictions. Approximately 80 percent of women who seek treatment have “lifetime histories” of traumatic experiences that include physical or sexual assault. Trauma and violence create widespread and harmful public health concerns, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration across all sectors of society. Traumatic events frequently occur in American communities, and they seem especially prevalent among people who have mental and substance use disorders. The pain of coping with trauma can increase the chances of turning to drugs for relief and the tendency to become addicted to them as well. Self-medication with drugs may let you temporarily forget about traumatic events in your past for a while, but they can also lead to more severe and complex problems.

Seeking a Dual Approach to Treatment for Addiction and Trauma

A dual diagnosis may occur when a patient experiences drug addiction as well as psychological trauma. The combined condition presents challenges for patients and care providers in coping with the complex interaction of both concerns. The most effective treatment includes individualized care that targets the underlying trauma issues equally with addiction. It may require medication to treat some of the symptoms of psychological trauma such as depression, memory loss, nightmares, anxiety and mood swings. In some cases, medication may treat drug addiction too. Until the underlying trauma issues receive treatment, the need to use drugs or stimulants may not diminish. Healthcare professionals recommend a tailored plan that treats the patient as a whole person as an essential step in recovering from a dual diagnosis condition. Patients who have undergone traumatic experiences can have hope for recovery. Drug addiction, until treated in combination with psychological issues, can worsen the effects of trauma. An effective treatment plan by qualified professionals may provide psychotherapy and medication to prevent the likelihood of relapse. Instead of trying to tackle one problem at a time, you may benefit from the combined treatment approach that we offer at Arizona Addiction.

 Finding Help on Your Terms

Without the stigma that ignorance and misunderstanding once placed on seeking help for trauma and addiction disorders, treatment offers ready access to anyone who needs it. A change in public opinion may have started when the American Medical Association clarified the status of alcoholism and gave it classification as a disease in 1956. While it may have taken another 50 years for addiction to achieve the same level of recognition, the condition has shed the unfair descriptions that once appeared all too frequently. Relief from the psychological pain that may accompany traumatic events and addiction offers a way to start enjoying life again. No one needs to suffer the undue discomfort that treatment can help alleviate. Call us at Arizona Addiction to get started on achieving a lifestyle that you can enjoy. When you struggle with addiction, suffer from trauma, consider attending rehab and want relief, you can trust the professional care at Arizona Addiction. We know how to help, and you can count on our specialized staff to gently guide you toward the life that you deserve. Content for Arizona Addiction by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment and technology. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email [email protected] to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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