A powerful relationship exists between trauma and substance abuse. Addiction often occurs when the pain and anxiety of trauma become so unbearable that people turn to drugs and alcohol to numb intense emotions. Sometimes, trauma is so severe that people will do nearly anything to make the fear and anxiety go away.
Treating an addicted person who has experienced trauma is rarely successful unless the trauma is addressed at the same time. Recovery from trauma and addiction is possible with treatment, but there are several important facts to consider:
- Trauma may be caused by exposure to war, violence, terrorist attacks or natural disasters. All are powerful triggers that may lead to use of drugs and alcohol.
- Childhood abuse and sexual assaults are also powerful traumatic triggers for substance abuse. Research indicates that adolescents who have experienced sexual assault are at least four times more likely to abuse marijuana, and nine times more likely to resort to hard drugs.
- Some trauma victims may experience guilt or shame, especially if trauma is the result of rape or sexual abuse. Victims who blame themselves may suffer in secrecy for many years.
- Others traumatic events include witnessing serious injury or death or threats of injury to self or loved ones. Relationship problems such as divorce or separation, as well as working or living in an abusive or neglectful environment, can also result in traumatization.