Trauma Informed Care – Addiction and Trauma Treatment

Alcohol and substance use disorders have many causes. While the root of these disorders is different for everyone, over the past two decades mental health professionals have determined adult alcohol and substance addiction are often closely associated with past trauma. Most people understand trauma to mean any stressful event that has a significant and lasting impact on an individual. This a solid working definition, but where addiction, treatment, and recovery are concerned, this definition needs to be expanded to include the role trauma plays in the lives of people struggling with alcohol or substance use disorders.

What Kind of Trauma is Common with Addiction?

If you’ve experienced trauma at any time in your life and you’re currently struggling with an alcohol or substance use disorder, we can help.

Call 866-704-7692

Our experienced staff is trained in the latest therapeutic techniques in trauma-informed care. We’re experts at helping people with a history of trauma overcome addiction.

Trauma and Addiction

A traumatic event is any incident – from childhood, adolescence, or otherwise – that overwhelms your ability to process that incident in a healthy and productive manner. Traumatic events can be one-time incidents, such as an accident, surgery, or a death in the family, or they can be long-term stressors, such as neglect, domestic partner abuse, incarceration, or experiencing war. In either case, a traumatic event leads you to fear for your physical safety and question your emotional or psychological stability. This type of trauma can cause a chronic psychological condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can lead to depression, anxiety, confusion, and memory loss. Intense feelings of despair, hopelessness, and low self-esteem often accompany PTSD. Further symptoms include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Hyper-awareness of surroundings
  • Avoidance of events that feel familiar to the traumatic event
  • Feeling of detachment
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Nightmares
  • Intense fear or horror
  • Helplessness

To handle these uncomfortable and overwhelming emotions, thoughts, and physical symptoms, you may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Self-medication is an attempt to make it all go away, or at very least, help you forget about the traumatic event and subsequent emotions for a short period of time. It’s a self-defense mechanism common not only to trauma survivors, but also to those struggling with mental health disorders unrelated to trauma. That’s why trauma-informed care is an essential component of alcohol and substance abuse treatment at Lakeview Health: when we meet our patients, talk to them, and dig beneath the surface to find the root causes of their addiction, we often find both co-occurring disorders and a history of trauma. Identifying these conditions and how they relate to your addiction becomes our work as addiction professionals and your work as someone on the road to recovery and sustainable sobriety.

Addiction and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control, in collaboration with Kaiser Health, launched a study on the effect of adverse childhood experiences on an individual’s long-term health. Known as the ACE Study, this effort is often cited as the origin of trauma informed care in the U.S. Research verifies children exposed to traumatic experiences have an increased risk of the developing alcohol and substance use disorders as adults. Here’s a list of experiences identified as traumatic by the ACE Study:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Physical or emotional neglect
  • Domestic violence
  • Divorce of parents
  • Living with an individual struggling with substance abuse, an individual diagnosed as mentally ill or an individual who was incarcerated or sentenced to be incarcerated
  • Experiencing racism and/or bullying
  • Living in foster homes
  • Living in an unsafe neighborhood
  • Witnessing violence

If you’ve experienced four (4) or more of these ACEs, statistics indicate you have an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, and alcohol or substance use disorders.

The Lakeview Approach to Trauma

At Lakeview Health, we understand past trauma and know how to help you deal with it. We follow guidelines established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for best practices in trauma-informed care. Our programs, clinicians, and staff:

  1. Realize the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery
  2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma
  3. Seek to actively resist re-traumatization

In addition, we design our fully integrated substance use treatment programs around SAMHSA’s six key guiding principles for trauma-informed care:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  6. Cultural, Historic, and Gender Issues

Our team creates an atmosphere where you can explore, understand, and process your past trauma. We help you understand how the sum of your life experiences add up to where you are now, and teach you the coping skills you need to move forward and break the painful cycles of substance abuse and mental health disorders.

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