Trauma, Addiction, Recovery

Detailing the Obvious

Intuitively, we all know there’s a connection between childhood trauma and addiction. It stands to reason that a child who suffers emotional, physical, or sexual abuse would develop into an adult with a drinking or drug problem. But how does this play out scientifically? And just as importantly, what might it feel like to live in the head of a grown up child who’s been abused, or in some other way traumatized?

Of course, the answers to these questions are WAY beyond what we can discuss in a 500 word blog. But even a few points might help us become more compassionate towards ourselves and others. Maybe they’ll even point us toward a solution.

The Link Between Trauma and Addiction

Mere numbers can never tell the story, but the statistics are out there. The short version is that children who experience significant trauma are about three times more likely to develop addictions than children who don’t. The traumas can include the following.

-physical or emotional abuse

-sexual abuse


-the death of a parent

-frequent conflict in the household

-parental separation

This certainly makes sense on the surface. But if we go deeper, we start to see the scientific foundation of the pain and emptiness that lead to addiction. Essentially, the experience of trauma stunts the growth of the brain. The damage is extensive. It includes a reduction in size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that regulates emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.

Trauma also affects important connective tissues in the brain. The neuroscience is complicated, but the upshot is that traumatized children lack the biochemical tools necessary to handle stress. They grow into adults who are constantly anxious and on high alert. This is something that addicts report in trauma therapy all the time – that they’re agitated and can’t relax without getting high.

The Solution Starts During Inpatient Treatment

It is absurd to think these grown up children will escape their trauma unscathed. The truth is indisputable – these folks lack the brain chemistry necessary for proper self care and healthy decisions. They are going to experience profound mental and emotional difficulties, including addiction. It’s simply inevitable.

Fortunately, there’s hope. There’s hope in trauma therapy. Through specialized and sensitive trauma therapy, addicts and alcoholics can begin to fill the holes that trauma has torn in their souls. It’s a miraculous tool, one that can actually being to make profound changes in actual brain chemistry. Not to mention healthier internal lives.

It’s never too late to begin administering these therapies, but ideally it begins early in the recovery process. That’s why so many inpatient treatment centers now include some version of trauma therapy in their programming. If you or someone you love is suffering from trauma based addiction, please seek help immediately.