Trauma and Substance Abuse

For many years, both the mental health field and the addiction field have been extensively exploring the under-recognized connection between trauma, substance abuse, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. But how significant is this connection?

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, the research has illustrated that exposure to trauma puts an individual at “four to five times greater risk” of substance abuse. Furthermore “stress” has been identified as the number one cause of relapse to substance abuse. A general population study found that among men with a history of PTSD, 34.5% reported substance abuse versus 15.1% of men without PTSD. Among women, 26.9% with a history of PTSD reported substance abuse versus 7.6% of women without PTSD. Moreover, research has illustrated that estimates of lifetime substance abuse ranges from 21% to 43% for individuals with PTSD. In addition, PTSD appears to occur among 42% of individuals in inpatient treatment for substance abuse.

The statistics alone highlight the importance of the relationship between trauma and addiction, but aside from numbers, the suffering associated with this dual diagnosis is profound. Individuals who struggle with substance abuse and PTSD often must deal with other mental health and physical disorders, vulnerability to further trauma, and difficulties in treatment.

So, what accounts for this considerable relationship between trauma and substance abuse? According to the National Center for PTSD, many individuals who have experienced a trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, or natural disasters, turn to alcohol or drugs to help them deal with the emotional pain, physical arousal, horrific memories, anxiety, depression, shame, guilt or terror that often arise following a trauma. From the other perspective, individuals who abuse substances are more likely to experience traumatic events, seemingly because they are more likely to engage in risky activities. Thus, may people find themselves in an unremitting cycle in which exposure to a traumatic event produces increased substance use, which produces new traumatic experiences, which in turn leads to more severe substance use and so forth.

If you or someone you love has experienced a trauma and is addicted to drugs/alcohol and can relate to the struggles associated with this dual diagnosis please call Jose at (310)779-4476 to begin your journey to healing.

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