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Addiction, also referred to as substance use disorder, is listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) as a relapsing, brain disorder. It is characterized by habitually engaging in rewarding stimuli (often, dangerous, risky, and/ or unhealthy) regardless of the ensuing negative consequences. According to Psychology Today, “trauma is the experience of severe psychological distress following any terrible or life-threatening event.” Although trauma could be construed as subjective, the severe psychological effects that can occur as a result of being exposed to trauma are immense. Every individual is different and as such the reasons behind why an addiction may have developed and/ or the circumstances surrounding a traumatic event will differ. An individual that struggles with addiction, by nature of the disease, may be at an increased risk of exposure to a traumatic event. Alternatively, an individual that has experienced trauma may be more vulnerable to developing an addiction. 

Contributing Factors

Unfortunately it is highly common for individuals struggling with addiction to have experienced some form of trauma in their lifetime. An individual that struggles with addiction will put satisfying his or her cravings above all else, which can lead to the use of poor judgment and risky behaviors. The situations an individual suffering from addiction enters in effort to quench his or her drug cravings greatly increase his or her vulnerability to experiencing trauma. 

Although extensive research has indicated many contributing factors, the sole reason for the development of addiction remains unknown. The Mayo Clinic assert that the two main factors that contribute to developing a drug and/ or alcohol addiction are as follows: 

  • Environmental
  • Genetics 

An individual can develop an addiction at any age. Individuals with mental health disorders may be more predisposed to developing an addiction than others. Additionally, individuals that were exposed to drug use at a young age, and/ or experienced childhood neglect and/ or abuse are at an increased risk for developing an addiction. 

Childhood abuse, childhood neglect, and/ or a lack of family involvement during one’s adolescence can impede an individual’s psychological development, which can in turn make them more susceptible to experiencing additional trauma. When an individual that lacks coping mechanisms for managing stress is exposed to trauma, navigating the situation may likely seem insurmountable. While some individuals may seek the assistance of a mental health professional to process the experience, many will opt to self-medicate. Turning to drugs and/ or alcohol may provide an individual with immediate, short-term relief, but it can also cause an entirely new set of challenges. Abusing drugs and/ or alcohol in efforts to alleviate angst and other related emotions to deal with the experienced trauma could lead to the development of several adverse physiological consequences, including addiction. 


Any individual will be significantly influenced by trauma, especially when it is not properly processed. There are a variety of treatment options available to individuals in need. In situations where a dual diagnosis (the presence of both substance use disorder in addition to another mental health disorder/ ailment) is present it is best to seek treatment from a specialized program that is equipped to treat dual diagnosis clientele. It is imperative to focus on treating substance abuse and/ or addiction while equally focusing on and treating any other mental health disorder. Obtaining treatment for one’s addiction while concurrently treating any additional mental health disorders is essential to one’s successful recovery process. A dual diagnosis treatment program will be able to develop a customized treatment plan that is tailored to the unique needs of the individual as a whole. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to 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.