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  • Project Recovery

How can trauma affect addiction?


woman with black tears
Woman with black rose.

Trauma and addiction often go hand in hand. Traumatic experiences such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, violence, or accidents can trigger strong emotional reactions that can lead to drug or alcohol abuse.


Addiction can provide temporary relief from the intense emotional pain and distress associated with traumatic experiences. Trauma can also affect the brain's reward system, making individuals more susceptible to addiction. Trauma can cause changes in brain chemistry and structure that increase the risk of addiction by making it harder for individuals to regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and make healthy decisions.

Individuals who have experienced trauma may also be more likely to seek out high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse, as a way to cope with their trauma. Unfortunately, addiction can worsen the effects of trauma, leading to a vicious cycle of substance abuse and emotional pain.

Treating addiction in individuals who have experienced trauma requires a specialized approach that addresses both the addiction and the underlying trauma. This may involve therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions that help individuals develop healthy coping skills and address the underlying emotional pain associated with trauma.


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