Detox & Drug Rehab In Orange County

Trauma can have a long-lasting impact on a person’s life. Childhood trauma, in particular, can shape your thoughts, emotions, and outlook. Even a traumatic experienced that you faced as an adult can have life-altering consequences; it can change your view of the world and yourself. It’s not uncommon to hear of people who have suffered from a traumatic experience to be struggling with addiction.

But what is the connection between trauma and addiction, and does trauma cause addiction? If yes, then why? Figuring out the answer is the first step to helping yourself or a loved one break free of their trauma-induced addiction or substance abuse. Uncovering this complex connection can help you find the right treatment and start your life anew without any addictive substance holding you back.

If you want to comprehend the complex link between trauma and addiction, you need to understand what trauma means in its entirety. So, without further ado, let’s explore the meaning of trauma, its varied types, and how it can be linked with addiction.




What Is Trauma?

The Debilitating Effects Of Trauma

The American Psychological Association (APA) describes trauma as an emotional response to an awful event, such as rape, accident, or natural disaster. Any time an individual fears for their safety, they experience a form of trauma. It can be anything that puts a person’s emotional or physical well-being at harm.

Whether it’s trauma from emotional neglect or domestic abuse, it can take a severe toll on victims. The fact that it affects people differently only adds to the complexity of trauma. Since it plays out differently, its effects also vary from person to person.

The stress from a traumatic event triggers the release of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which handle your body’s fight-or-flight response.

In a crisis, these chemicals can be helpful to you. However, in higher concentrations, they can have adverse effects on your body. They prevent your body from understanding the difference between a real emergency or crisis that demands a fight-or-flight response and your remembrance of a traumatic event.

At times, people who experience trauma find themselves in a vicious loop that they can’t seem to break free from. It causes them to develop a severe mental health disorder known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

This condition is commonly found in war veterans and people who experience childhood trauma. It often leads such individuals to turn to alcohol, drugs, or self-medication to mask their feelings or take the edge off, which establishes the connection between trauma and addiction as it can lead them down the path of a lifelong struggle with addiction due to their unresolved trauma.


Immediate and Long-Term Signs of Trauma

Common immediate signs of traumatic events include shock, anger, and denial. However, long-term reactions can include:


Types of Trauma

Trauma is so much more than a negative experience. It’s an event or series of events that have a lasting effect on your emotional, mental, physical, and social well-being. There can be numerous types of trauma that can cause high levels of stress in your body.

Here are a few common types:




The Connection between Trauma and Addiction

Drug Addiction Caused By Trauma

The connection between trauma and addiction is complex and different for every victim. Many individuals who have suffered from a traumatic experience turn to substance abuse and alcoholism as a coping mechanism. There are many substances that can make a user feel different sensations, such as a mind-numbing calmness or an inexplicable high that makes you feel empowered. These are sensations that a victim of psychological trauma can actively seek to drown out the noise or flashbacks of their experience.

A person who has suffered from a traumatic experience might start relying on benzodiazepines to feel relief from chronic anxiety. They can also turn to stimulants to get a kick of energy. Drugs can also make a person dealing with trauma feel like they can achieve their dreams, which they don’t feel confident enough to achieve without the drugs. People might also develop an addiction to opioids to experience the euphoria associated with them.

All victims of trauma have individual needs that they might seek to fulfill by using drugs, opioids, and alcohol. However, these needs can also push them toward addiction as they start believing that without drugs or alcohol, they will not be able to become who they want to be or fulfill their dreams. These individuals can develop a harmful reliance on substances, which can result in addiction.


Psychological Trauma and Drug Addiction

A Traumatized Women

Even though drug addiction and psychological trauma are afflictions that anyone can face, regardless of their age, gender, class, religion, or any outside factors, the intensity of the trauma and addiction can vary from person to person. For instance, an individual might suffer from trauma more intensely if they have significantly low levels of cortisol or other abnormalities in the HPA axis, such as:

These people might also suffer greatly if they have brain abnormalities in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, or amygdala.

Moreover, an individual is more susceptible to drug addiction if they have a family history of substance abuse as addiction can be hereditary. Similarly, if you have friends who are addicted to drugs, you might succumb to peer pressure and start using drugs.


Childhood Trauma and Addiction


The human brain has incredible plasticity, i.e., it can respond and adapt to anything that life throws your way. This ability allows you to learn new skills and create memories as you move through the world. Everything you experience and do, be it good or bad, causes your neurons to change, grow, and even break, depending on the adjustments that your brain has to make to keep you functioning. This skill also enables trauma patients to relearn skills, such as speaking or walking.

But what does it have to do with childhood trauma and addiction? How does trauma cause addiction? Your brain’s plasticity is the reason why the things you experience in your childhood follow you into your adulthood. Your childhood experiences essentially shape your thoughts, behaviors, and reactions to situations and people.

The connection between childhood trauma and drug abuse becomes evident in people who had to grow up with alcoholic, absentee parents. It’s because individuals who suffer from addiction and childhood trauma might have modeled their harmful behavior, such as self-dedication or substance abuse, on the behaviors they observed in their loved ones while growing up. Their excessive use of drugs and alcohol in their adulthood can easily lead to addiction.

Other forms of childhood trauma, such as abuse, witnessing a tragic event, or witnessing domestic abuse, can also contribute to the development of trauma-related addiction and depression. A study revealed that people who have experienced five or more adverse childhood experiences are seven to ten times more likely to become substance abusers. This same study revealed that individuals with three or more traumatic childhood experiences have higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse, along with depression and heart disease.

Another study found that among adolescents (aged 15 to 19) being treated for a substance abuse disorder, 45.3% of females and 24.3% of males had a lifetime history of PTSD, which is five times higher than a community sample of adolescents. Research also highlights that about 60% of young people with PTSD go on to develop a substance abuse problem.


PTSD And Addiction

Drug Addiction

If you have PTSD along with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it’s known as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. According to APA, PTSD affects around 3.5 percent of U.S. adults annually, and about 1 in 11 individuals will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime. Even though it’s often associated with war veterans, PTSD isn’t just limited to people with a history of military service. People who have experienced a natural disaster, car accident, sexual assault, or terrorist attack can also have PTSD.

Here are some common, recurring symptoms of PTSD:

These symptoms can be extremely distressing and overwhelming. In an attempt to escape the symptoms of PTD, people often turn to drugs or alcohol. However, with the use of alcohol or drugs, the symptoms only worsen. For instance, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which will worsen your anxiety and depression while interfering with your regular sleep pattern.

Moreover, endorphin withdrawal plays a key role in explaining the connection between trauma and addiction and the use of alcohol or drugs to control PTSD. When a person experiences a traumatic event, their brain produces endorphins that alleviate pain and create a sense of well-being to cope with the stress. When the event passes, your body experiences an endorphin withdrawal, which is somewhat similar to the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs.

According to research, most individuals with PTSD turn to alcohol as a means to replace the feelings brought on by the naturally-producing endorphins. However, the positive effects of alcohol are fleeting, which leads to increased usage. Hence, it increases the likelihood of people becoming chemically dependent on alcohol.

The more you use drugs or alcohol as your crutch, the more you will need them to numb your feeling. It’s because the effects of the endorphins will subside, and you will need more alcohol to escape your PTSD flashbacks. Eventually, your dependency on them will turn into an addiction, characterized by compulsive use of the substance, tolerance to it, and abuse of the drug in spite of its devastating effects. This vicious cycle establishes the link between trauma and addiction.


How Addiction Caused By Trauma Is Treated

Trauma Alcohol Abuse

A dual diagnosis of co-occurring drug addiction and trauma can be challenging. It needs to be handled responsibly and professionally so as to not worsen substance abuse. The most effective treatment plan is care that is designed specifically to target both addiction and trauma. This type of treatment can involve medication and psychotherapy.

Medication will help treat some of the symptoms of the trauma, such as depression. It can also help to treat the addiction, depending on the type of drug the afflicted individual is addicted to. For instance, if you’re addicted to heroin, a practitioner can use methadone for it. Similarly, if you have an alcohol addiction, anti-addiction medications like naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, can effectively block the positive effects of alcohol, which will help you break free of the destructive cycle.

On the other hand, therapy will help you deal with the emotional damage caused by the trauma. It will help you resolve your feelings and move past the experience. The treatment plan needs to be handled by a compassionate team of addiction specialists and psychotherapists who can create a customized behavioral rehabilitation and help you overcome your trauma.

The initial consultation for eventual treatment should include questions that identify patterns of past and current substance abuse. When dealing with the afflicted individual, a mental health professional needs to be extremely sensitive and compassionate so that they can make them feel at ease.

The professional should explain the deep connection between trauma and addiction to you and help you discover the particular pattern that prevents you from getting your life back on the right track. The right treatment plan should include thorough education, vigorous psychotherapy, and support groups that can help you address your substance abuse problems. It should include interventions that are carefully coordinated and integrated to help you deal with both your problems simultaneously.

Since trauma affects everyone differently, the treatment plan for each individual needs to be tailored specifically to their needs. Ultimately, there needs to be implicit trust and excellent collaboration between the patient and the practitioners to help you move past your trauma and addiction. The right treatment can help you learn coping mechanisms other than self-medicating or substance abuse. It will eventually help you feel empowered and enable you to get your confidence back.


A Man Suffering From Trauma Addiction

The Bottom Line

There’s no denying the connection between trauma and addiction. Your past traumatic experiences can lead you toward substance abuse and addiction as you attempt to drown out the noise, i.e., your emotions, thoughts and memories related to the traumatic event.

With that said, even though trauma might be a significant part of your past life, it does not have to define your future. Before it leads you down a one-way road to destructive habits, address your trauma and addiction by seeking the right treatment for them. After all, early intervention can help you address your problems quickly without needing to unpack years upon years of repressed feelings.

Let Coastline Behavioral Center help you address your trauma and addiction. Get in touch with our compassionate team to discuss the right treatment plan for you!

The importance of staying positive during the addiction recovery process cannot be emphasized enough. A positive and optimistic attitude promotes happiness and satisfaction, which plays a major role in ensuring persistence required to defeat addiction for good. On the other hand, a negative or pessimist attitude can lead to resignation and depression, increasing the probability of relapse. This makes it important to harbor positive thoughts and feelings during recovery.

Unfortunately, staying positive during addiction recovery can be a challenge. Unhappy thoughts, personal triggers, guilt, cravings, social pressure, and other negative emotions can take a toll on your mental, emotional, and even physical health. However, it is important to understand that while addiction recovery is a bumpy road, it is not impossible to avoid beat the blues and stay positive. Here are some tips that can help keep your spirit up during addiction recovery.


Avoid Personal Triggers

One of the most helpful things that you can do to keep yourself positive and happy is to actively avoid personal triggers to the best of your ability. Start by identifying your triggers. It could be anything from certain social situations to people you hang out with or the places you visit. Make a list of all your personal triggers to avoid situations that promote negativity or make you feel uncomfortable.

For instance, if you are going through alcohol recovery, you may want to skip a cocktail party. Similarly, if you are working on quitting drugs, you may want to stop spending time with people you used to do drugs with, and so on. Making these small, proactive changes in your daily routine can remove the temptation and help you big time down the road.


Welcome Peer Support

Attending a support group or group counseling is highly recommended during addiction recovery. Meeting people who are going through the same struggles as you can help eliminate the feeling of loneliness and being misunderstood. It can also be a source of inspiration as we learn from the mistakes and achievements of others.

Plus, when you attend group meetings every week, you start developing meaningful friendships. Working towards the same goal with friends or people you care about can help you stay positive and determined through the rough patches. Ultimately, you will be able to keep each other accountable and offer genuine support that stems from understanding whenever required.


Build A Solid Support System

It is also essential to develop a solid system beyond your support or counseling group. These are the people that you can trust to be always by your side. Your support system might include your close friends who are sober, family members who support recovery and understand your struggles, your therapist, counselor, or other people who want the best for you.

It can be hard to open up about your struggles with people, especially your loved ones. However, instead of shunning them out or isolating yourself, reaching out to the people nearest and dearest to you for support could be the best thing you do. You will find that most people would be more than happy to offer support and help you in any way. Plus, giving them a chance to understand your struggles can also help you improve your interpersonal relations and improve your life's overall quality.

It is also a good idea to always have a couple of reliable and sober friends that you can bring to holiday parties, weddings, and other social settings where you might be exposed to drugs or alcohol. Remember, a little support can go a long way during and even beyond addiction recovery!


Practice Health Ways To Cope With Cravings

Cravings are a natural part of addiction recovery, especially during early recovery. However, instead of getting down on yourself every time you experience a craving, a better approach is to look for healthy coping mechanisms. Do whatever helps you combat the craving. Keep in mind that there is no standard way to manage cravings. Instead, the right methods to manage cravings vary from person to person. It is up to you to figure out what works the best for you.

For some people, it may look like ringing up a close friend and talking it out, while others may feel better after engaging in physical exercise or their favorite pastime. If you are having a hard time finding effective ways to manage your carving, you can always brainstorm with your family members, close friends, counselor, or support group. The ultimate goal is to make sure you don't let the cravings get the best of you and bring down your spirit!


Change Your Internal Monolog

Positivity and satisfaction have a lot to do with our internal monologue, which entails how you talk to yourself. It is important to understand that our internal voice is a manifestation of our subconscious beliefs. Unfortunately, many people end up being their biggest critics, especially when going through addiction recovery.

"I messed up." "I can't do this." "I am not good enough." These are some common negative chatter that many people experience. While it may not seem like much, such self-deprecating talk can adversely affect your mood and overall satisfaction. The good news is that it is possible to change your internal monologue to become your biggest supporter.

What you need to do is keep a check on your internal dialog and stop yourself every time you notice negativity or pessimism in your internal voice. One way is to think of something positive or engage in an activity you enjoy. For instance, if you notice yourself beating yourself about a blunder you made in the past, remind yourself that you love yourself. In this way, you can use your internal monologue to buck yourself up when you are feeling down. Many people find it effective to use self-affirmation or mantras as well. Reinforce the message of self-love and positivity to train your brain and internal dialog.


Take Time Out To Relax

Stress and fatigue are linked to bad moods, pessimism, and negativity. So, make sure you give yourself time to relax and unwind during your busy schedule.

While going through addiction recovery, it may seem like a good idea to drown yourself in work. After all, the more you have on your plate, the less time you will get to think about your troubles, right? Well, in reality, this is not the best way to go about it. While keeping yourself busy can surely help, throwing yourself into work and staying on your feet all day may not be the best solution. A better approach is to find a balance between work and fun. While you focus on work or academics, don't forget to take the time to unwind and engage in enjoyable activities.

Drug or alcohol addiction makes most people lose interest in activities that they previously enjoyed. If the same happened to you, now may be the time to return back to healthy activities that you enjoyed. On the other hand, you can also pick up new hobbies that can help you relax. It could be anything from signing up for a cooking or painting class to taking up yoga or aerobics. Do whatever makes you feel happy and relaxed.


Be Proactive When It Comes To Socializing

When you are going through addiction recovery, people are going to ask you all sorts of question about it. The earlier you realize and accept this fact, the better it is! "Why don't you drink" "Do you still get cravings?" "Can't you have even a single hit?" "How do you do it?" These are some of the questions that people might ask you at some point, especially during social gatherings.

It is a good idea to take a proactive approach and decide how you want to respond to such questions ahead of time. Knowing exactly what you want to say can instill a sense of confidence and positivity in you. Otherwise, such comments and questions can catch you off guard and ultimately lead to negative thinking.


Develop A Routine

Addiction recovery isn't just about quitting. It has a lot to do with changing your lifestyle. Most people struggling with addiction have destructive habits and routines. Recovery is the time to break these habits and embrace a healthier routine geared. Developing a routine will not only make it easier to stay sober but will also impact your overall wellbeing in a positive manner. Here are a few things that you can cover when developing a healthy routine to combat addiction and negative thoughts:


Be Grateful: The Power Of A Positive Outlook

It may sound cliché, but the best way to stay positive and beat the blues is to count your blessings. When stuck down in a slump, we often overlook the good things in life. However, reminding yourself of all the things you are thankful for can help you pull yourself out of the slump and uplift your mood. So, the next time you feel gloomy, jot down 5 to 10 things that you are currently thankful for. Making a gratitude list may seem like a small task, but it can change your perspective in life.

Keep in mind that you don't always have to put in major, life-changing events on your gratitude list. Your entries could be as simple as enjoying a cup of hot coffee with a loved one, running a mile, baking your favorite cake, and so on. The goal is to celebrate small wins and be grateful for the good things in life.


Help Others Whenever You Can

One of the best ways to feel good about yourself and your circumstances is to help others. It's human nature. We are built to thrive socially and help others in need. Therefore, volunteering to help others can, in fact, help you on many levels. It can boost your confidence, increase your self-esteem, add meaning or purpose to your life, and even make a few friends along the way.

There are many ways to help others. For instance, you can volunteer at the local soup kitchen, make a donation, help clean the beach, volunteer at the animal rescue center, or engage in any other activity that supports a meaningful cause.


The Bottom Line

The power of positive thinking has been studied for years, confirming that a change in attitude can have dramatic effects on the outcomes. The same rule applies to addiction recovery. Meaning, a positive mindset may be your biggest asset when it comes to fighting addiction. Follow the tips mentioned above to stay positive during addiction recovery and beyond. Smile more!

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction or finding it hard to stay positive through the recovery process, our experienced and friendly team at Coastline Behavioral Center can help! Get in touch today to arrange a consultation or explore your options.



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