Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Does Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Developing an addiction following trauma is pretty common. Studies can prove that trauma has many impacts on a person’s life, one of them being the desire to numb out the pain with substances or behavioral disorders. A traumatic event shifts a person’s thinking. Their body even can change physiologically in the brain, gut, and other places. Witnesses to trauma can experienced post-traumatic stress responses. It ends up leading to some sort of addiction or risky behavior down the road.

Common Connection

Development of an addiction after trauma is pretty common. A number of studies have proven this point. Traumatic events, sexual or physical, or neglect, increased the likelihood of clients developing a major depressive or anxiety disorder. In some cases, PTSD. in most cases, a majority of these people were compelled to self-medicate as they got older with drugs and alcohol to deal with their feelings.

What Causes Trauma

The common thread of trauma to addiction is that a child may witness or experience first hand abuse in their home by parents or caregivers. They cannot cope or have the skills to understand what is going on. The child may act out in a variety of ways. The more times a person is exposed to trauma, the greater the impact on their overall health. Long-term, these effects impact mental health and their physical health also suffers greatly. Roughly one in five people may experience adverse childhood events that are traumatic and raise their risk of future drug use, depression, violence, heart disease, and other issues.

Trauma-Informed Services

Every person seeking treatment for substance abuse, even those not showing symptoms of PTSD, should be asked about past trauma. There is some evidence people with PTSD fare worse in traditional substance abuse treatment than people with other types of co-occurring disorders. PTSD does not go away with abstinence from substances. Symptoms are widely reported to become worse with initial abstinence. The focus in therapy becomes:

  • Ensuring safety
  • Building trust and boundaries
  • Prioritizing choices
  • Maximizing collaboration and sharing of power
  • Empowering them with skills and tools to take care of themselves

When a person becomes empowered to seek help for themselves, they no longer feel the need to rely on substances to help them cope. They will have tools like medication, therapy, and community to help them recover from trauma and fight back against addiction.


The Palmetto Center is based on a Therapeutic Community model. We help people learn how to live free of addiction. Our community support provides structure while trained counselors offer life skills training and therapeutic techniques to help you move past addiction. Our program provides special focus for professionals including chiropractors, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and more who need help with addiction recovery. Call us to find out more: 866-848-3001.