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How Does Trauma Contribute to Substance Use Disorder?

Trauma is part of everyday life; at what point in life does trauma turn into the tipping point that propels someone into substance use disorder (SUD)? Trauma shapes how people try to find physical and emotional safety and get rid of emotional pain. People who have survived trauma frequently use substances in an effort to avoid emotional distress. At the beginning of substance use, the substance dulls the pain and provides a way to escape.

However, as time goes on, the substance no longer performs the same function, and an individual must use more to continue to dull their pain. For recovery to be successful, trauma must be addressed. Trauma-specific treatment addresses all the physical, emotional, psychological, and social issues that underlie SUD. Trauma-based care helps people learn to manage their past trauma in a healthy way without re-traumatizing them and without the need for substances. 

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is caused by experiencing, witnessing, or being threatened with an overwhelming event. Trauma causes feelings of fear, helplessness, horror, and acute discomfort. Trauma affects day-to-day functioning because it causes lasting adverse effects, which shape how someone functions and perceives their well-being. 

How Does Trauma Affect Recovery?

Without addressing trauma during treatment, there can be no lasting success. Integrating trauma resolution into substance abuse treatment programs increases success and the likelihood that clients will achieve lasting sobriety; addressing the trauma underpinning addiction helps the success remain more stable and long-term. 

Addressing underlying trauma, which frequently causes self-medicating with substances, gives a positive foundation for healing. A good treatment program will provide space for people to process traumatic experiences and develop better strategies for the distressing emotions caused by previous trauma. 

Trauma-specific treatment allows people to feel safe and avoids retriggering the prior traumatic experiences. Once the trauma has been addressed, the need to self-medicate decreases. Trauma-specific treatment increases long-term success and optimizes the effectiveness of treatment.

Does Trauma Make Recovery More Difficult?

When people use substances to escape the painful emotions caused by trauma, the trauma symptoms frequently worsen when that substance is removed. For recovery to be successful, people first need to understand how their substance of choice helped them survive. A good treatment program will teach people how to manage their trauma triggers whenever they appear so that the chance of relapsing is less. 

As more coping skills are developed and trauma is resolved, the need for substances decreases. Trauma and substance abuse are connected; addressing both together leads to successful recovery. Trauma-specific treatment, which addresses both trauma and substance abuse, makes for a successful healing journey, with sobriety stable and long-term.

For recovery to be successful, it is essential to address all the contributing medical and mental factors rather than focus solely on substance abuse. If prior trauma is not addressed in treatment, relapse is possible; therefore, trauma and co-occurring mental health disorders must be addressed in treatment for recovery to be successful. At The Guest House, our integrated care ensures that treatment is trauma-based and the trauma is resolved. You will learn healthy skills to cope with past trauma and find your way to a healthy future. To get started, call (855) 483-7800.