Substance dependency takes on many forms, and many of them connect to trauma sustained in developmental years. Such traumatic events often wind up following you into maturity and could contribute to creating a variety of long-term mental health and substance use disorders (SUD). Further, the National Institute of Health reports that more than a third of adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect will develop a substance use disorder before they reach their eighteenth birthday.

It is essential to understand where your trauma takes root and how it influences your impulse to use; otherwise, your substance use will continue to grow and interfere in your life. Looking at your own past, explore the connection between childhood trauma and how it affects adulthood and substance use and how you can cope.

Effects of Childhood Trauma on Adulthood

Trauma experienced in the developmental stages of childhood can severely impact the quality of life in adulthood. The range for which it can interfere include both personal and professional areas of your life. Signs that you might be dealing with the effects of childhood trauma will often manifest in situations that require trust, reliability and handling responsibilities. Such areas of your life that can be impacted include:

  • Professional life: Lingering effects of childhood trauma can manifest as a conflict in the workplace. Trauma experienced in childhood directly influences how you might perceive and process adversity when it comes to trusting yourself and others. Inability to process your trauma-related responses can directly impact professional mobility and the quality of your work environment.
  • Romantic and social relationships: If you have experienced sexual trauma or any other type of physical or emotional abuse, you might have intimacy issues. Such issues could create significant obstacles to forming healthy romantic relationships. Studies suggest that childhood trauma directly impacts how you develop a general and sexual identity, trust and self-worth that are necessary to assert confidence and avoid or embrace destructive relationships.

Trauma and Addiction 

Trauma experienced at an early age could lead you to crave stability, acceptance and community in your home life. Alternatively, such desires could have you looking elsewhere; such negative influences might involve forming alcohol addiction, drug addiction and toxic relationships. The chronic nature of substance use means that these early behaviors and signs of alcoholism can follow you into adulthood. You might not recognize, acknowledge and process trauma until it manifests in self-destructive ways.

Self-Medicating to Get Through Childhood Trauma

Finding comfort in self-medication to alleviate stress related to trauma might feel safer than trusting people if you are dealing with trauma-related issues. However, these “feel-good” effects are short-lived and do not develop the healthy habits necessary to overcome your trauma and addiction. Early intervention and recognizing the root of your trauma is a critical part of the clinical trauma-treatment process. Such examples that create vulnerability to using substances include:

  • Domestic abuse: Domestic abuse is among the more common forms of trauma and can influence the formation of substance use. A recent study shows a close connection between physical and emotional child abuse and the development of a drug or alcohol addiction as a result of emotional dysregulation. Such trauma can form as a result of direct abuse or having to witness abuse.
  • Sexual abuse: Data collected from the National Center for Biotechnology Information reveal that nearly 60,000 children experience sexual abuse per year in the United States. Further, sexually abused children are 25%more likely to develop problems related to drugs and alcohol addiction.
  • Physical Abuse: Studies show that two-thirds of the people in treatment for substance addiction reported being abused or neglected as children.
  • Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse describes a range of behaviors, including verbal assault, manipulation or neglect. Further, early exposure to drugs and alcohol from a parent or guardian puts a child at greater risk for developing a substance use disorder in adulthood.

Treating Substance Use and Childhood Trauma 

Treatment for childhood trauma-related substance use must simultaneously address substance use’s immediate medical and behavioral aspects while providing targeted and in-depth treatment for the triggers that sustain the trauma. It can be accomplished through a comprehensive course of professional treatment, beginning with medically supervised detoxification, followed by individualized behavioral and substance rehabilitation.

While the approach to care will vary based on your individual needs, addressing both your trauma and substance use is crucial to successfully manage stress and sustain recovery. It is important to provide a thorough health history in order to help find the best treatments for you. Such treatments might include:

Overcoming addiction and maintaining sobriety sometimes requires having to confront difficult memories. However, understanding what drives your addiction is a core element to finding the proper treatment. If you have experienced trauma and are self-medicating to cope, then the time to get help is now. At Associated Behavioral Health Care, we are qualified to treat co-occurring disorders and trauma-related issues that interfere with your life. We provide outpatient treatment and will remain a pillar of support for you at any point after treatment and throughout your recovery journey. Find out more and call us today at (844) 335-7384.