Does addiction stem from trauma?
If you, like many others around you, are facing drug or alcohol addiction, it could be that some level of psychological, emotional, or physical trauma occurred at some point in your life. That trauma damaged your ability to think properly and to see yourself in a positive light. In order to recover, you need to address and process what you’ve experienced.
What Are Adverse Childhood Experiences?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, as events that had a tremendous impact on a person’s health. It describes all aspects of abuse and neglect that a person under the age of 18 experiences. The 10 most common ACEs include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical neglect
- Emotional abuse
- Emotional neglect
- Mental illness in a parent
- Substance dependency in a parent
- Incarceration of a parent
- Divorce or separation of parents
- Domestic violence
In a study, called the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, it was determined that two-thirds of those who participated reported at least one of these factors. Over one in five reported experiencing three or more ACEs.
Social and economic conditions impacted those who experienced more ACEs than others. Those who experience racism, live in an unsafe area, move often, or live in a war zone of any type, are at a high risk of developing complications. Those who are homeless, immigrants without stability, and involved in the criminal justice system are also more likely to develop complications due to trauma.
Why ACEs Matter – A Life of Difficulty
It’s important to understand the role that ACEs play on a developing child’s mind and overall health. Many times, children who are exposed to trauma like this carry it through their lives. Consider the following statistics of people who experience four or more ACEs during their younger years.
- They are 12 times more likely to commit suicide.
- They are four times more likely to develop depression at some point in life.
- They are up to four times more likely to develop problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
- They are seven times more likely to develop alcoholism.
If that rises to five or more ACEs, they are up to 10 times more likely to use illegal drugs, become addicted to illegal drugs, or inject illegal drugs.
What Does What Happens to Us in Our Past Influence Our Future?
Researchers know that the more exposure to these risks that occurs, the more intense the reaction is. The physical structure of the brain is changed by the trauma. The way it reacts to surrounding challenges also becomes a concern.
In some people, the area of the brain responsible for pleasure and rewards stops working properly after trauma. This leads to an increased risk of developing substance abuse. Impulse control is also impacted. The prefrontal cortex of the brain stops working properly to manage impulses, making it easier for those with ACEs to make poor decisions.
Another area that suffers damage is the amygdala. This area of the brain is responsible for fear. However, in a person experiencing trauma, that fear is always “on”, and over time, that causes damage to the brain. Because it is nearly always activated, the body must continue to release stress hormones to prepare for the flight or fight scenario. Those stress hormones are unhealthy for the body at such levels. This makes it hard, over time, for the brain to recognize true fear.
How Can Trauma Like This Be Treated?
You don’t have to live with the trauma impacting your life. You also don’t have to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate your pain.
ACEs are damaging and can be the biggest part of your recovery process. Yet, you can become resilient. You can do this by developing cognitive flexibility, optimism, and a strong social network. An evidence-based addiction treatment program can help you develop the coping skills to manage the realization of what happened to you.
Is it time for you to finally begin dealing with your own trauma? DK Solutions Group provides the resources you need to advance your wellbeing and recover from trauma’s impact.