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Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a chronic, relapsing neurological disorder. It is characterized by “clinically significant impairments in health, social function, and voluntary control over substance use.” The exact reason behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown. There are, however, several risk factors (e.g., environmental risk factors, genetic risk factors, psychological risk factors, socioeconomic risk factors, etc.) that have been reported to increase one’s propensity for developing substance use disorder. 

Childhood Trauma

Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening and subsequently impair a person’s functioning by causing adverse effects on one’s mental, physical, social, emotional, and/ or spiritual well-being. Childhood trauma can be defined as “abuse (such as sexual or physical), witnessing domestic violence, neglect, accidents, chronic or sudden medical illness, a death in the family or parental illness, substance use, divorce, or incarceration.” Data indicates that one in four children living in the United States experiences a traumatic event before reaching adulthood. Early childhood experiences play a large role in how the brain develops and functions. A report from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University asserts that childhood trauma can derail healthy development and cause damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan. Trauma and adversity in childhood raises the risk of numerous health problems (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, etc.) in adulthood, and can serve as triggers for substance misuse, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The Connection

The negative experience of childhood trauma is believed to be behind certain anomalies in brain structure that result in cognitive, behavioral, and social impairments. One study concluded that being mistreated during childhood caused frequent and extremely high levels of stress that impeded normal brain development. Further, it initiated physiological stress responses that, as observed in neurological scans, led to structural disruptions directly linked to increased vulnerability to addiction. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explain that “when children who are victims of maltreatment become adults, they tend to repeat a dysfunctional cycle and often lack mature characteristics: the ability to trust, to make healthy partner choices, to manage stress constructively, and to nurture themselves and others.” Breaking the cycle of substance use disorder requires some form of treatment to intervene and alleviate the addiction. Similarly, research indicates that early interventions may reduce trauma symptoms alongside sufficient and customized treatment strategies, and that supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of childhood trauma.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.