How Past Trauma Can Trigger Alcohol or Drug Addiction?

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Addiction is a topic that has been researched to a great extent – and it keeps on being the focus of many research studies. And the same goes for trauma. Throughout all those surveys, a clear connection between the two has been spotted. Nowadays, it’s no secret that past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction. As a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Florida, we think of it as our responsibility to familiarize you with the connection between childhood trauma and adult drug or alcohol addiction. After all, knowing what you can expect will make it easier to work on finding the solution to the problem.

A girl carrying a teddy bear.
The things we go through in life have a huge potential to greatly shape our adulthood.

Trauma 101

At some point, we have all had some very unpleasant situations happen to us in our childhood. However, this doesn’t count as trauma. Trauma goes far beyond the unpleasantries of certain situations. The reason why this occurrence is so negative and it leaves huge consequences on your wellbeing, later on, is because it leaves long-lasting effects on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It can even cause your body to enter a fight-or-flight mode, confusing your body about what’s an actual emergency compared to your remembrance of an event.

People who suffer from trauma in their childhood can get stuck in it. They are highly likely to repeat the traumatic event in their head, making them unable to move on. In the most serious of instances, they will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which you know is commonly associated with war veterans. Well, childhood trauma can actually leave the same psychological effects that war leaves on those people who have lived through it.

Common types of trauma

There is no classification of what constitutes a more serious trauma and what is a less serious one. Any situation where you felt like your life was in danger can result in trauma. Likewise, all of these situations can definitely cause PTSD. However, there are some types of trauma that we commonly see in the clients who are attending our drug or alcohol rehab in Boynton Beach. Those include:

  • Sexual assault
  • Parental neglect
  • Natural disasters
  • Domestic violence
  • Terminal illness
  • Physical assault
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Emotional or verbal abuse
  • Accidents (like being stuck in a fire or having a car crash)
Two firefighters putting out a fire.
Living through natural disasters and fire-related incidents will oftentimes result in trauma.

It’s also important to mention that just because you have lived through any of these does not mean that you will develop PTSD. Every person is wired differently, and some people react to trauma differently. However, there are some signs that show that a person has been deeply affected by the past events that have happened in their lives.

Signs of trauma

Anytime you go through something traumatic in your life, you have a different response to it. Some cope with the stress of a situation by ignoring it completely. Others will develop a set of physiological and physical symptoms. The signs of trauma are numerous, and they can reflect in your behavior, physical appearance, and psychological state of mind. Know that noticing any of the following symptoms is a good reason for you to look into the events that have happened in your past:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Frequent and dramatic mood swings
  • Excessive displays of emotion
  • Irritability
  • Eating disorders
  • Problems in your personal and work relationships
  • Constantly reliving the event in your head

It goes without saying that you would rather avoid everything that is connected in any way to your past trauma. However, that’s not the right approach if you want to get better. If you don’t want the events of the past to leave any negative effects on the rest of your life, then you need to learn how past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction. If you are already in our drug rehab facility in Palm Beach, then we’ll make it our mission to show you what you should and shouldn’t do when faced with trauma. But if you are not there yet, then this article should do the trick for now.

A female psychologist.
Being in a rehab facility allows you to have a team of people who will help you work on your trauma – and addiction.

Dual diagnosis

The fact that trauma causes addiction can best be seen in those people who have a dual diagnosis. Having this diagnosis means that you are suffering from both a mood disorder and addiction. While any mental health problems might occur on their own and without any particular reason, they are usually brought upon by a significant event that a person has gone through. We can’t think of anything that will be more significant and impactful than trauma.

We don’t think of a dual diagnosis as anything bad. Quite the contrary – we believe that its existence allows the person to get the care and treatment that they deserve. With a dual diagnosis in hand, you can get treated for both your mood disorder and addiction. What we would like to emphasize, however, is that it’s important to work on both of these problems at the same time. There’s no use in curing your addiction if it was brought upon by a mood disorder. Then you are just setting yourself up for failure and the inevitable relapse. It’s only after you fix the root cause of the problem that you can reach and maintain long-term sobriety.

How past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction?

Nowadays, there’s no more doubt whether childhood trauma can cause adult addiction – we know that it can. However, what some people don’t yet know is the exact connection between the two. Why is a person who grew up in an abusive home more likely to become addicted than someone who bears no childhood traumas? Well, the rich experience we have acquired in our heroin rehab center in FL makes us fully competent to comment on the subject. Plus, we have backed up our experience with research, as we aim to deliver verified pieces of information only.

A man in a bar.
When in doubt about how to handle their difficult emotions, many people will resort to drugs and alcohol.

People cope with trauma and stress by looking for an escape

Whether you want to dull the feelings of sadness that you are feeling or you want to try to forget your past trauma, alcohol and drugs can oftentimes seem like the only right solution. These substances serve as an escape from your daily life and everything bad that comes with it. Let’s take alcohol as an example. If you drink enough of it, you are bound to pass out, have memory gaps, and have a good old time at the bar. All of these can help you forget about the things and the memories that have been bothering you.

Little by little, day by day, you are going to need bigger amounts of alcohol or drugs just to feel the same effects. People can build up a tolerance to these substances. So the more you consume cocaine, for example, the more will you need to become intoxicated from it. And that’s how addiction develops. Soon enough, you will realize that you need to admit yourself to a crack cocaine rehab facility in FL. Of course, this is a broad generalization, as it’s the most common course of action. But you could be an exception to the rule, and it could all end to that one night of avoidance that you have granted yourself.

Drugs and alcohol cause euphoria

Every substance will have a different effect on a person’s brain. Take opioids as an example. These drugs work by affecting the opioid receptors in the body. Once they attach to these proteins, they start blocking the pain and producing morphine-like effects. Opioids are used in medicine to treat a variety of problems, and they are safe for use when administered under medical supervision. However, the problem emerges once people start abusing these drugs, which they oftentimes do. Codeine, Vicodin, oxycontin, and heroin are all opioids.

By blocking the pain and affecting the neurotransmitters, these drugs will cause feelings of euphoria. That’s what causes that high that people most often will associate with drugs. This effect comes with a lot of dangers, as it is very addictive. Now, to tie it all to how past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction. Well, people who have experienced trauma and are still battling its effects are going to feel in need of a little bit of euphoria, even if it’s temporary. That’s why they will be tempted to experiment with drugs and/or alcohol, especially if they are in an environment that supports such a decision.

A happy woman learning how past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction.
Many people will need substances to help them feel happy after facing trauma.

What happens many times is that people experience that high, feel great, and go on to repeat it many times. Only now they will realize that they need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. And that’s how soon enough, they will find themselves inside a meth rehab facility in Florida looking for a solution for their addiction.

Substance abuse is oftentimes a group activity

We’ve already mentioned that there are many different types of trauma. You don’t always have to be a victim of abuse to have PTSD or suffer from the traumatic effects of the past. Oftentimes, it’s enough for a person to be neglected during their formative years in order to become traumatized. Those people might grow up to become in constant search of friendship, support, and love. And it’s precisely this intense need to be loved and accepted that can turn into an addiction.

Alcohol and drug use usually begins in a group setting. And while this mostly happens during a person’s teen years or young adulthood, even older people can cave into temptation if they happen to find themselves in such an environment. What usually happens is that people want to feel accepted and get that sense of belonging. They might start experimenting with drugs or alcohol because the people in their vicinity are doing it. Soon after, what has started as an activity that is done in a social setting turns into a raging addiction that requires becoming committed to an Inpatient program in Florida.

Thus, you can see how the effects of trauma can meddle with a person’s adult life. Having these emotions and personal needs might not be something that you can control. But you can definitely decide to take matters into your own hands and avoid becoming addicted.

A group of men making a toast.
Sometimes, addiction stems from a person’s internal need for validation and acceptance, and that’s only one of the ways how past trauma can trigger drug or alcohol addiction.

How to prevent past trauma from triggering alcohol or drug addiction?

For starters, we want you to know that you are braver than you think that you are. Likewise, you are doing more than enough just by looking for more pieces of information on the topic. And since you have taken that necessary first step, we would like to help you out on your journey. That being said, you should know that there isn’t one thing that you can do and be completely sure that your trauma won’t trigger an addiction. Instead, you will have to take a series of steps to ensure that you deal with your problems in the only suitable manner.

Recognize and accept the problem

As briefly mentioned, some people will deal with their trauma by negating its existence. This is a coping mechanism for many people, as many believe that the problem will go away if they pretend that it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, that’s never the case. Past trauma leaves a deep imprint on who we are as people and it affects what we will feel. Therefore, even if you don’t want to admit that you have a problem, the problem will still affect your entire being. And by negating your trauma, you will never be able to deal with it.

That’s why we always say that the first step towards recovery is acceptance. Mind you that this is true whether your past trauma has already triggered an addiction or not. Even if you believe that you are already completely dependent on a substance, know that there is always a way to recover. Hey, that’s what our Inpatient and Outpatient programs in Florida are here for. But that recovery can never come unless you accept that you need professional help. This brings us to the second action that you need to take.

Get professional assistance

Pay close attention because this is a rather important one. Trauma always entails professional assistance – if you want to learn how to manage it, that is. Your friends, family members, and even acquaintances might be willing to help you and listen to your feelings. While their support will be of huge importance, they usually can’t give you all the right tools for managing your trauma. A professional, on the other hand, can. That’s why we suggest that you look into therapists in your area and make an appointment.

A man reading how past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction on his phone.
Don’t hesitate to contact as many therapists as necessary. You need to find the one that you are most comfortable with.

Bear in mind that there are therapists who specialize in traumas. Therefore, if you have such a therapist in your area, it would be best to seek their support. They will be able to use different methods that work best on trauma. Bonus points if you manage to find a really experienced trauma therapist. With some motivation and willpower from you, this might be the fastest way to sobriety and healing for you.

Immerse yourself in useful activities

Now, just because we have mentioned that you shouldn’t try to negate your feelings and distract yourself from your problems doesn’t mean that a bit of distraction will be bad. Quite the contrary – it might be crucial to distract yourself once the thoughts about drugs and alcohol pop up. However, there is a right and wrong way to approach distractions. The only right way for you to go is by choosing to spend your time on useful and healthy activities. To give you an example of what we mean by that, we will give you a list of activities that are going to be a good choice if you are looking for your new favorite pastime activity:

  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Walking
  • Exercising 
  • Painting 
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
A man making bread.
Cooking is an activity that will occupy you, as well as help you nourish your body with nutrients.

Do you see a common denominator here? The point is to choose an activity that is going to keep you busy both physically and mentally. Moreover, all of these activities are either going to produce endorphins or they are going to help you reach inner peace. Our suggestion? It’s best to choose one activity that gets your body moving and another one that nourishes your soul. That’s going to give you the best opportunity to prevent past trauma from triggering alcohol or drug addiction.

Be patient and persistent

A mistake that people oftentimes make is thinking that the road to recovery is going to be quick. Know that there are no shortcuts when it comes to deeply ingrained trauma or addiction. Just because you have started therapy and are committed to it doesn’t mean that you will manage to work through your problems over the course of a few weeks. Moreover, the progress might not be evident right away, and things might get worse before becoming better. All of this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t start therapy – quite the contrary. This just means that you need to create realistic expectations of what your road to recovery is going to be like.

Do you know how they say that patience is a virtue? Well, we are going to need you to live by this saying and allow it to become your motto. By being patient and knowing that healing will come, you are going to allow yourself to work on your recovery without any unnecessary pressure. And the best piece of advice that we can give you is to remain persistent. Make your therapy sessions and your recovery your main focus in life for the upcoming months (or even years). When you think about it, you will realize that nothing matters more than your health – both mental and physical.

A happy woman in a field.
You can’t heal your trauma overnight, but you can keep working on it persistently and healing will come.

Knowing that past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction is half the job done

Addiction isn’t an incurable disease. However, it is a disease that is difficult to control, as it needs to be worked on for the rest of your life. Just because you have gotten sober doesn’t mean that the cravings won’t be there. They might go away for a few weeks or months, but they are almost bound to pop up once you are faced with your triggers. Thus, we don’t think you should leave it up to chance.

Instead, you should learn exactly how past trauma can trigger alcohol or drug addiction and save yourself from a lot of problems. If you know or suspect that you have faced trauma in the past, then it’s going to be imperative to get the necessary help in due time. Look for and contact experienced therapists in your area and make your mental health your priority. Otherwise, you might let your childhood or early adulthood trauma affect you for the rest of your life. And addiction won’t be the only bad thing that can come out of it.


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