Most people who struggle with addiction have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. During any given year, 8 million adults in the United States will have PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. Up to 80 percent of women who enroll in substance abuse therapy have endured physical or sexual violence. Trauma can be a result of many different factors, and is a very individualized experience. Causes for trauma can range from neglect, to bullying, to sexual abuse, to domestic assault, to war, to serious accidents, and more.

In many cases, those psychological wounds were inflicted during childhood. In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and the healthcare company Kaiser Permanente collaborated on a major study of childhood trauma and addiction. The researchers concluded that the more intense a traumatic childhood event is, the more intense a person’s use of alcohol, drugs or nicotine is likely to be. Because childhood trauma occurs so early on in life, a person may have difficulty understanding why they feel the way they do as their memory of the trauma may be fuzzy or even suppressed. They never properly coped with the issues they dealt with, resulting in the need to care for their emotional confusion by covering it up with substance use.

Rehab Through Trauma TherapyNot only that, addiction can be passed down generationally. This factor coupled with other traumas can lead to severe cases of addiction and substance abuse. Trauma-informed rehabilitation seeks to alleviate such anguish. As a result, chemical dependencies often loosen their grip.

Cause and Effect: Trauma and Substance Abuse

Many people avoid getting psychological help to deal with their trauma, especially if they feel a sense of shame about their past. But the pain of trauma almost never goes away on its own. Rather, it can have serious and lasting effects on the brain.

For instance, each half of the cerebrum has a section called the amygdala, and one of the amygdala’s jobs is to recognize when a person is facing a threat. After people go through traumatic episodes, however, their amygdala could be overstimulated for long periods of time. Thus, they often feel afraid, and might turn to chemical substances to regain a sense of control. Fear and timid behavior are often symptoms found in victims of trauma. In contrast, they can also display bouts of anger and physical aggression.

Trauma can also make the brain less able to keep itself away from harmful behaviors and habits. Thus, it can be harder for someone who’s undergone trauma to stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs. It may begin to feel like second nature to cover up these feelings with substances, and once the cycle starts it becomes nearly impossible to stop without help. Treatment is crucial for victims of trauma on both physical and emotional levels.

What Is Trauma-Informed Addiction Treatment?

First of all, trauma-informed addiction programs create spaces where people can feel safe and comfortable. These environments are non-judgmental and unhurried. They let patients go at their own pace as they discuss issues related to trauma with mental health professionals. Those that have gone through significant trauma have the tendency to blame themselves. and this results in feelings of shame and embarrassment. These sentiments can become so deep that it is difficult for victims to talk about their experiences.

Scottsdale Recovery Centers offers a safe and accepting environment in which patients can talk about their issues, individually or in groups. Patients are able to live alongside people that have gone through similar experiences, and realizing that you are not alone can be a huge turning point for some. This helps significantly in identifying the root trauma related to your addiction, and once identified the condition can be treated effectively.

Some patients don’t realize or won’t accept that they’ve been through traumatic experiences, however. For example, some people convince themselves that their abusive parents were simply showing them “tough love.” Those involved in domestic violence have a hard time breaking away from the relationship, or accepting the fact that the person they love isn’t who they thought they were. It can be very difficult to cope with trauma, especially when you’ve convinced yourself that it didn’t or doesn’t exist.

Over time, therapists help those patients realize that they’ve been through agonizing circumstances. Addiction counselors can also explain how such situations lead people to substance abuse. As painful as this may be initially, making this breakthrough is the first step toward recovery. This form of therapy can be a lengthy process, but in the end, it’s cathartic and deeply beneficial.

In addition, once patients accept their trauma, their counselors can review with them various coping mechanisms — tools for putting their anger, fear and grief into perspective. At that point, following through with a plan for overcoming addiction will be easier. Learning how to deal with triggers that remind you of your past experiences is essential in maintaining long-term sobriety. Triggers for trauma can range from someone speaking to you in a certain manner, physical touch, or being in the environment in which the abuse occurred.

In all of this, trauma-informed therapy centers are soothing places to be. Their rooms and hallways are often filled with calming music and pleasant aromas. Quiet spaces and friendly faces are easy to find at Scottsdale Recovery Center, and we encourage you to seek treatment at our facility.

We offer activities and services that let patients express themselves and attain a sense of inner peace. Patients leave our centers feeling stronger and more prepared to face the world. Some of our treatment programs include art lessons, outdoor sports, acupuncture, meditation, yoga and massage sessions.

In sum, because trauma-informed addiction therapies address the root causes of substance abuse, this type of treatment can be more effective overall. Their results can last much longer, and patients tend to feel much better about themselves, their lives and their futures.

At Scottsdale Recovery Center, our mission is to make sure that each individual that comes through our doors leaves with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Call us today for more information on the best treatment option for you.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.