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Can Childhood Trauma Lead to Addiction?

The link between childhood trauma and addiction remains an ongoing research effort. The goal is to connect the disease of addiction to traumatic events and experiences that occurred in the formative years. During childhood development, these social, experiential, or biological events could predict a preponderance of addiction in the adult years. Addiction researchers continue to study the factors that increase the susceptibility to addiction. 

What is Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma and addiction later in life are thought to be connected. Childhood trauma includes a scary, dangerous, violent, or life-threatening event that occurs between birth and eighteen years. Extreme upsets, feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, and feeling extreme helplessness are all descriptions of how trauma can impact a child. Traumatic events can also encompass threats or harm inflicted on a loved one. 

When a child experiences extreme trauma, they cannot process the fear, loss, or distress they are impacted with. Strong negative emotions are beyond their experience. Reactions involving childhood traumatic events have lifelong effects on an individual. Childhood trauma and addiction connections form because of changes in the child’s mental, physical, social, and emotional health at the time of impact. Some possibilities for potentially traumatic childhood events include the following:

  • Combat injury of a loved one
  • School violence, bullying, or cyberbullying
  • Act of Terrorism or community violence
  • Serious injury, natural disasters, accidents, fires
  • Abuse, domestic violence, loss of a loved one
  • Crime
  • Discrimination or racism
  • Homelessness
  • Economic stress, poverty
  • Neglect
  • Serious Illness

How Childhood Trauma Affects the Brain

In the research that proves childhood trauma leads to addiction, the development of the brain in childhood is a motivating factor. As the brain develops and grows it creates and strengthens neural connections. The brain neural networking system is continually composed and aligns with the experiences of the individual. Synapses and connections between neurons that tell the brain how to function are continually evolving. Childhood trauma and addiction are formerly connected through research. 

Both positive and negative experiences affect brain development, but negative experiences such as traumatic events can impede or even alter brain development. These traumatic or negative experiences are believed to be connected to brain anomalies in brain structure that result in impairments. These impairments can be cognitive, behavioral, or socially based. Therefore, the thought of childhood trauma and addiction in adult life has a solid foundation for connection. 

Can Childhood Trauma Lead to Addiction?

Studies have proven that childhood maltreatment with high levels of stress did affect normal brain development. Trauma that may have initiated physiological stressors, over time, actually disrupted the brain’s structure. According to studies, the connection between childhood trauma and addiction suggests that many children exposed to trauma are vulnerable to substance use disorders later in life. In addition, these studies found that individuals faced an increased risk of major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and tendencies toward addiction.

The CDC Kaiser ACE Study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) is one of the largest known assessments of the effects of childhood abuse and neglect later in life. Data from more than 17,000 American middle-class families reported a distinct link between childhood negative experiences and negative adult physical and mental health. In fact, four or more instances of childhood trauma that can lead to addiction proved a 46 percent greater chance of these children becoming injection drug users.

Three Steps to Processing Childhood Trauma

Studies suggest that addiction treatment can produce happy endings to childhood trauma and addiction later in life. With new treatment educational resources, medical professionals are finding that self-help work can strengthen conventional treatment methods to produce successful recovery and prevent relapse. Following the framework below with the three steps to processing childhood trauma can be extremely beneficial. 

  • Allow yourself to be happy: You are not alone in the experience of childhood trauma and addiction. Roughly 35 million children in the U.S. have experienced childhood trauma. Accepting the trauma that happened, processing the feelings surrounding the trauma, and letting the experiences go can allow the addict to move forward and live a healthier, positive life free from addiction.
  • Address Your Addiction: Making the decision to address addiction is the first step. Accepting the addiction exists and making the commitment to get sober and receive treatment proves you are ready to leave the traumas and addiction in the past. In other words, childhood trauma and addiction affect you, but treatment can free you from its bonds. 
  • Understand You Are Safe Now: Working with a team of treatment professionals can relieve your anxiety and stress to begin to feel relief from the fears surrounding childhood trauma and addiction. Leaning on therapists, doctors, family, and close friends for support allows a feeling of safety. Now is the time to focus on recovery and learning how to live a healthy, safe, sober lifestyle. 

Find Effective Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Recovery from childhood trauma and addiction is at your fingertips if you desire to remain sober. Researching treatment centers in your area is an initial step, but relying on experienced physician advice from your primary care provider is beneficial for a successful outcome with treatment. In fact, many centers treat both mental illness and addiction. Contacting an experienced intake representative is also a good idea, as they typically make for great information resources. 

Childhood Trauma and Addiction in California

Having experienced childhood trauma and addiction and you are in the California area, please contact Riviera Recovery in Los Angeles. Our experienced intake staff members offer answers to your concerns and questions immediately! Contact us today, and allow us to put your treatment team together to get you on the road to recovery.

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