Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Addiction is a serious condition that continues to affect thousands of people every year. It can affect every aspect of someone’s life to the point where their life revolves around a certain drug. What makes some people more susceptible to addiction than others? It’s a question that researchers have been trying to answer, especially in the cases of childhood trauma and addiction.

Doctors have been trying to find the connections between addiction and a person’s social, and biological circumstances. There seems to be a clear connection between a person’s childhood and vulnerability to addiction. A person’s experience during their childhood can make a big difference in their adult lives, especially when it comes to drugs and addiction. 

How Certain Experiences Impact the Brain

To understand how childhood trauma and addiction relate, it’s important to understand how experiences can influence the brain’s development. The brain has an innate feature called plasticity, which is its ability to respond and adapt to your environment and the world around you. 

When the brain begins to mature and grow during childhood, it begins to strengthen and create neural connections. This essentially creates a network of neurons that calibrates certain functions in the brain. Our experiences as children and adults affect the brain’s development in the same way as learning how to walk or talk does. 

The growth and physical structure of the brain are affected by our experiences, the good and the bad ones. In the same way that we can benefit from these experiences, the brain can also have negative effects in situations like childhood trauma and maltreatment. 

The Effects of Maltreatment During Childhood

When researching cases of childhood maltreatment, it was found that being mistreated during childhood results in very high levels of stress, which affects the brain’s development. With continued maltreatment comes a physiological stress response. This response can begin to create structural problems in the brain.

These structural disruptions could be seen in a neurological scan. It is this phenomenon that contributes to childhood trauma and addiction. People who experience maltreatment as a child are much more susceptible to abusing drugs and develop addictions in the long run. 

Childhood Trauma and Addiction as an Adult

As previously mentioned, there are a number of studies that show a connection between childhood trauma and addiction due to the structural disruptions in the brain. With this in mind, there are studies that show a number of other stressful experiences that have been linked to addiction in adulthood

Childhood trauma can mean a number of different things, not just child abuse (which is what many people think of when they hear the term ‘childhood trauma’). There are a variety of other stressful situations that can affect a child’s brain development. Common traumatic childhood experiences include:

  • Neglect
  • Witnessing domestic abuse
  • Witnessing physical violence
  • Death of a loved one (parents)
  • Living with a parent or guardian suffering from a mental illness

Individuals who have experienced these childhood traumas have an increased tendency to become addicted and dependent on drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased chance of developing other addictions like compulsive eating or sexual behavior.

How Do Traumatic Experiences Lead to Addiction?

In one’s childhood, some experiences feel much more traumatic and scarring, much more than if you experienced them as an adult. This is mainly because of the development of the brain at the time of witnessing some of these traumas. Children have limited perspective and context when it comes to certain events. 

This lack of reference makes it harder to interpret these traumatic events, which results in a lasting effect for years to come. During these instances, a child typically relies on loved ones for guidance and support. However, when parents or family members are the sources of mistreatment and neglect, there is no one to turn to. 

Abuse and mistreatment as a child can quickly spiral into alcohol and drug use. A person may use substances and drugs to self-medicate and cope with the effects of abuse at an early age. This is what makes childhood trauma and addiction so interconnected when it comes to drug addiction in adulthood. 

It is also worth noting that some habits like substance abuse and drinking can be passed on to children. At an early age, a person may try to mirror their parents or guardian when the time comes. This can also cause certain people to become addicted to drugs later on in their lives. 

Treating Substance Abuse and Addiction 

While child trauma can lead to substance abuse and addiction down the line, it’s not too late to get help. Substance abuse and addiction can completely consume someone’s life and can destroy relationships and cause a number of financial problems. Not to mention the multitude of severe health problems that can develop. In some severe cases, death may even occur. 

Depending on the substance, there are a handful of intense withdrawal symptoms that come with using drugs. These can make it harder to stop and only deepen a person’s addiction to the drug. There are different treatment options for different drug types. It is important to get professional help so you can combat your addiction and trauma together. 

Commonly Abused Drugs

Whether addiction stems from childhood trauma or another reason, people tend to try different substances and alcohol to deal with life’s stresses or experiences. Some of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. today include some of the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Methamphetamines
  • Central Nervous System Depressants

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people abuse drugs and alcohol. These substances can cause health, financial, intimate, and work problems. If you are worried that a loved one or someone you know may be abusing drugs, it might be time to get help.

Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

Childhood trauma and addiction can be a crippling combination that can lead to harsh drug abuse. As a loved one or friend, it’s important to be aware of drug addiction signs so you can help the person get treatment. 

If you notice any of these signs in a friend or loved one, it might be time to get help. Signs of drug addiction include:

  • Difficulty doing normal tasks
  • Irritable and lack of motivation
  • Combining medication with alcohol
  • Change in personality and behavior
  • Changes in friends and appearance
  • Financial and relationship problems
  • Stealing or borrowing money for drugs
  • Decreased hygiene and personal health
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and things they used to do
  • Continuing to take a drug even after health problems have disappeared

Along with these signs, comes the harsh withdrawal symptoms when the person is not taking the drug. It is important to get treatment sooner rather than later, especially in cases of possible overdose or death. Daylight Recovery Services is here to help you on your journey to recovery.

Treatment Options for Childhood Trauma and Drug Addiction

Understanding childhood trauma and its effects on addiction is just the first step. Knowing that a person may have been subject to abuse or neglect is key to getting personalized treatment. Since childhood trauma has a tendency to lead to addiction, preemptive measures can be taken beforehand to avoid worse scenarios.

This information can also make addiction treatment more effective by offering support and therapy catered towards childhood trauma. Making peace with one’s past can make a world of difference on the road to recovery. No matter the situation, there is always room to deal with the past and move on to a better life.

Therapy Options

When dealing with cases of drug addiction, therapy can be an extremely beneficial option. Especially for cases of child trauma and addiction, therapy can help you cope with both spectrums. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the more commonly used therapy types. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to cope with both childhood trauma and addiction. CBT helps a person understand and evaluate their thoughts. By taking time to understand and manage both sides of past neglect and addiction, a person can slowly begin to change their mindset and goals. 

Other types of therapy include motivational interviewing and support groups. Both give you an extra boost of support. Support groups are a great way to open up about your struggles with addiction and past trauma. It also gives you a chance to hear about other people’s stories and how they relate to you. 

It’s Never Too Late to Get Help

Childhood trauma and addiction can be painful and crippling to your mental and physical health. However, at the end of the day, it is not how you got here but how you will get out. Daylight Recovery Services offers a number of effective ways of treating substance abuse. Contact us today to see how we can help you get on the road to recovery.