For some who struggle with alcohol use, addiction stems from problems in their past. These deep-rooted traumas from childhood can be both an impetus for alcohol or drug abuse, and a roadblock in the recovery process. Substance abuse can be an unhealthy response to a natural need for the sufferer to feel “normal”.Often they were never given the opportunity to develop healthy coping mechanisms. If childhood trauma is at the root of addiction for you or your loved one, it’s important to seek out dual diagnosis treatment so that trauma and addiction can be addressed together.
Trauma Alters the Brain
Many experiences during childhood can lead to positive brain development. However, this can also be said for negative experiences, which alter or impede brain development. All of this affects the growth of the brain and its eventual physical structure. Childhood trauma or neglect can directly cause anomalies of the brain. The result is cognitive, behavioral and social impairments similar to PTSD.
In cases of addiction, research has found that the reward center of the brain was at some point impaired. If a sufferer’s family was abusive or neglectful, he or she grew up looking for rewards elsewhere. They often turn to drugs or alcohol to fill this void.
Emotional Responses to Trauma
While childhood trauma causes a physical reaction by altering the brain, it also plays a role in affecting someone emotionally. In many cases of abuse, the victim begins taking alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate and alleviate the effects of the trauma. Unfortunately self-medication can lead to a path toward addiction.
Several types of childhood traumas are associated with addiction. Many people think of only physical abuse, but traumas come in several forms and can include:
– Physical violence
– Sexual violence
– Emotional abuse
– Loss of a parent
– Witnessing domestic or physical violence
– Major accidents
– School violence
– War or terrorism
– Natural disasters
– Having a family member who suffers from mental illness
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for PTSD and Alcohol Abuse
Dual diagnosis therapy is a form of recovery that blends the most successful aspects of mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment in order to treat the individual as a whole person. Without treating the underlying issues that caused the addiction, this reason for use will remain. The chance for relapse is high when the cause is not addressed.
Specifics of Care for Childhood Trauma and Addiction
For the best chance at recovery, your dual diagnosis care should include:
• Parallel treatment of mental health disorders and substance abuse by a highly-trained team.
• The possibility of psychotherapeutic medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs.
• An approach that reinforces self-esteem and builds self-confidence.
• A treatment strategy that includes family members in therapy sessions (either individual sessions, group therapies or educational classes)
Trauma Informed Care at Footprints
If you think your or your loved one’s addiction stems from a childhood trauma, look for a treatment facility with a dual diagnosis program ran by qualified professionals. At Footprints, the staff is certified in trauma resolution therapies. The program is designed to treat multiple issues in an integrated fashion along with drug addiction rehabilitation. For more information on our trauma informed care and to get started on recovery, contact us today.
1. The Unfortunate Connection Between Childhood Trauma and Addiction in Adulthood.. www.dualdiagnosis.org. (Accessed Oct 22, 2018).