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Addiction and trauma treatment often go hand in hand. Learn about the role that trauma may play in a substance use disorder.

When thinking about the causes of addiction it is clear that there are many diverse risk factors that can play a role. One of them is a history of trauma. When someone witnesses or experiences a traumatic event it can be life changing. For most, the pain and shock from the event will wane over time, but some are left feeling quite broken. Each one of us has our own unique coping process when faced with an adverse life event, such as trauma. For those who cannot shake off the effects of a trauma, a substance may provide relief from the emotional struggle. The risk, of course, is that with prolonged use of the substance you can become addicted to it. When someone has both a substance use disorder and trauma disorder, like PTSD, it is called a dual diagnosis. If this is the case, a specialized rehab program that offers both addiction and trauma treatment is needed.

About Trauma

Severe trauma can happen in any number of ways. When someone has witnessed or been involved in a traumatic event, it can result in extreme anxiety for the victim. Symptoms of trauma can include:

  • Mood swings.
  • Angry outbursts.
  • Being ultra sensitive.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Change in eating habits.
  • Being jumpy or agitated.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Substance abuse.

There is a wide range of traumatic events that can cause emotional harm, both short or long term. Some of the most common traumas include:

  • Sexual assault.
  • Natural disaster.
  • Being involved in a serious car crash.
  • Sudden and unexpected death of a close loved one.
  • Experiencing a violent assault.
  • Childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Combat trauma.

What is PTSD?

When someone is exposed to a trauma and is still burdened with symptoms after a month, it is called PTSD. PTSD features these traits:

  • Avoidance of any place, person, or situation that might spark a flashback.
  • Nightmares or flashbacks.
  • Angry or aggressive behavior.
  • Irritability
  • Detachment
  • Intrusive thoughts about the trauma.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Hyper-vigilance.
  • Being easily startled.
  • Substance abuse.

It isn’t known why one person will develop PTSD after a trauma while another person will not. Mental health disorders like PTSD often have complex roots. The NIMH reported some new insights that help shed some light on the different responses to the same trauma:

  1. Genetic factors. Research has revealed that when the protein stathmin is present it will form fear memories after being exposed to a trauma.
  2. Brain chemistry. GRP is a brain chemical that is released during emotional events. Some people who lack GRP may form more intense and longer lasting fear memories. Studies have also shown that rampant serotonin due to the 5-HRRLPR gene can fuel the fear response. How the brain controls the hormones and chemicals produced by a stressful event is also a factor.
  3. Family history. When there is an individual or family history of anxiety and depression it can increase the odds of the development of PTSD. A history of head injuries or childhood trauma may also be factors in developing PTSD.

Is There a Link Between Trauma and Addiction?

When someone has both a trauma and a substance use disorder, a dual diagnosis can take hold. In many cases, the trauma effects can be long lasting and very hard to manage. The trauma may even reach back to childhood abuse, something that had never been dealt with through therapy. When someone then uses drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, they can acquire a substance use disorder. As tolerance to the substance increases it begins to take higher dosing of the substance to achieve the desired effects. This is how dependence or addiction can take hold. The substance, however, only worsens the symptoms of the trauma. It can even increase the risk of suicide. A dual diagnosis treatment program will address both the trauma disorder and the substance use disorder.

Addiction and Trauma Treatment

Treating these co-occurring disorders will rely on a special program that includes mental health expertise. Trauma work, as well as the substance use disorder, involves a multi-modal system of treatments. The basic treatment elements of a substance use disorder program include therapy, 12-step program, and classes. The trauma treatment will add on to that with prolonged exposure therapy and maybe EMDR therapy. There are two basic options for addiction and trauma treatment. These include inpatient or outpatient formats. The level of care needed will be based on how severe the disorders are. Programs last 28 days to six months on average.

Holistic Help for Trauma

When in recovery for both disorders, people in this group will be at risk for higher relapse rates. To be able to reinforce your sobriety it is crucial to continue on with aftercare measures. Aftercare can include sober living, which can be a helpful option when your home setting is not supportive. Keeping up with outpatient therapy is another must. In therapy, you can work through any setbacks as they happen and avoid relapse. Holistic methods are very helpful in recovery for self-soothing when thoughts of trauma pop up. “Holistic” refers to a whole person approach to healing, as the aspects of mind, body, and spirit are closely linked. Some very useful holistic actions include:

  • Taking up yoga.
  • Getting daily exercise.
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Journaling
  • Guided imagery.
  • Mindfulness
  • Healthy diet.

If you or a loved one is burdened with addiction and trauma history, get the treatment you deserve now. Addiction and trauma treatment is there to help you overcome the dual diagnosis.

LifeSync Malibu is a Premium Addiction and Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

LifeSync Malibu offers caring support for those who have endured trauma and then developed a substance problem. This can also occur in reverse order, so the treatment will be designed based on those details. For more information about the program, call us today at (866) 491-4426.