Traumatic situations form our characters and who we are. Whether it’s something that happened to you as a youngster or an adult, these experiences shape how you perceive the world and yourself. Traumatic incidents may happen everywhere, whether at home, school, work or in a combat zone. They may have a severe effect on physical and mental health regardless of where they occur. It’s not unusual to hear that someone who has been through a terrible event is now dealing with addiction. Trauma-induced drug misuse is more likely among those who did not acquire effective coping methods as children, although trauma can also affect people who did not suffer childhood trauma.

How are trauma and addiction related?

There is a two-way street between addictions and trauma. Trauma raises the chance of alcohol and drug addiction, while substance abuse raises the danger of trauma through risky behaviour. It’s also true that drug-takers or alcohol abusers cope with stressful situations much harder. In studies of patients with drug addictions, extremely high rates of childhood trauma are consistently found.

  • People who have had three or more traumatic childhood experiences are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, as well as to suffer from depression, violence, STDs, and heart disease.
  • 75 per cent of women and men seeking treatment for drug dependence have a history of abuse or trauma.
  • Substance abusers are seven to ten times more likely to have had five or more adverse childhood experiences in their past.

How does trauma contribute to addiction?

People are innately inclined to feel linked, seek friendship, and belonging throughout their lives. The attachment process is interrupted and shifted when opiates substitute this normal tension/release, need/satisfaction cycle. As a result, the addicted individual receives an artificial and destructive alternative for the warmth and protection they should have had as a kid.

People who did not receive adequate sensitive parenting throughout their youth are more likely to seek pharmacological substitutes later in adulthood. Stress and trauma are clearly connected to addiction. A person’s capacity to cope with stress is influenced by early trauma. Stress typically leads to addiction when it becomes unpleasant, overpowering, and terrifying.

There are a variety of reasons why PTSD and addiction are connected. Many people find that using substances helps them cope with the severe symptoms of PTSD, such as nightmares, flashbacks, and poor sleep. Alcohol, drugs, painkillers, and other medications can help diminish these feelings in the short term. They generate a stimulating intoxication that results in increased energy and alertness. In addition, activities like nonsuicidal self-injury, casual sex, and gaming can snap people out of their numbness and let them feel at least something. However, it all becomes less effective with time, and substance withdrawal mimics PTSD symptoms, increasing emotions of anxiety and fear. If a person doesn’t receive prompt treatment for pill addiction, alcohol abuse, or any other addiction, this will lead to a vicious circle with dire consequences.

Childhood trauma and addiction

It’s not easy to define trauma objectively. The definition of trauma varies from one person to another. Trauma is more about how an individual sees and experiences an incident than it is about the event itself. It’s a single incident or a set of events that have long-term consequences on your mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual health. Because your mind and body perceive this incident as physically or emotionally injurious or life-threatening, childhood trauma in adults creates high levels of stress.

Here are some of the most common childhood trauma types:

  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Emotional or verbal abuse
  • Parental neglect
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Serious illness
  • Grief — the loss of a parent or other close family member

People who have been exposed to such things during childhood have higher chances of becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs. They can also lead to behavioural addictions, such as obsessive eating and sexual activity. It’s also typical for adult substance misuse conduct to be modelled after the substance abuse behaviour of a friend or family member observed during childhood.


Given the obvious conclusion of how childhood trauma leads to addiction, it’s critical that programs provide a more complicated approach to their clients. Childhood trauma and addiction must be addressed as co-occurring and interconnected disorders. There is no benefit to sobriety for persons unable to cope with their horror, humiliation, fear, and loneliness. Detoxification, or weaning your body off the substance in a medically supervised setting, is the first step in comprehensive addiction treatment and counselling. Then, with the help of a caring team of addiction specialists, tailored behavioural recovery may begin.

While trauma may have been a part of your past, it does not have to be a part of your present!