Linking Childhood Trauma to Adult Addiction: The Insidious Consequences of Traumatic Coping and How to Beat Substance Abuse!

Connecting the Dots: Childhood Trauma & Addiction in Adulthood

There is research being done that helps give a much more thorough understanding of addiction and how it is linked to childhood trauma. The link between childhood trauma and addiction susceptibility can be understood more when you look at how the brain works. Nobody can deny the importance of genetics and biology in terms of brain development. The human brain has the innate ability to adapt to environmental stimulation. This is known as plasticity. As the brain grows and matures during childhood, it strengthens and discards neural connections. This helps to imbue the brain with a number of natural functions, whether it is learning how to walk, or how to talk. In short, it is the growth of the brain and its physical structure that helps to influence brain development.

father and child: adolescent trauma in children by parents

Adolescent Trauma: The link between childhood trauma and addiction in adults

An assessment has been done on a number of individuals. They have found that those who experienced maltreatment also had impeded brain development. Continuous stress over time can be observed in neurological scans. Those who have been exposed to traumatic childhood experiences often find themselves being vulnerable to several substance abuse disorders as a way of coping with unresolved trauma.

How Childhood Trauma Influences Problematic Drug Use in Adults

Although a number of studies have shown that there is a connection between childhood abuse and addiction, that’s not the only cause. Many people associate traumatic experiences, such as losing a parent, witnessing domestic violence or even living with a family member who has a mental illness. Those who experienced things like this during childhood, often found that they tended to become dependent on both alcohol and drugs to cope with their unresolved trauma. They also went on to develop behavioral tendencies, such as compulsive eating. In a lot of cases, experiences that would be extremely traumatic for children, might not be as traumatic for adults. That being said, these instances can have a significant and long-lasting impact. Children are limited in their ability to make contextual references that allow them to process their experiences. Lacking a frame of reference makes it difficult to make sense of things, and therefore makes the impact of trauma much more likely to linger.

linking adolescent trauma and adult addictions

Children also rely on loved ones for support, when times are tough. Family support is not always an option during times of difficulty, and as a result, it’s possible for them to learn to self-medicate. Alcohol or drugs can be the way to do this later in life so that they can compensate for the residual impact of being victimized at a young age. It’s also common for substance abuse to be modeled after a loved one if it has been witnessed in childhood. 

Coping with Childhood Trauma as an Adult

Two-thirds of adults have experienced some kind of traumatic experience as a child. For this reason, it is so important to understand how childhood trauma can lead to vulnerability and addiction later in life. Knowing when an individual has experienced trauma could help to mark them as being at a higher risk of addiction later in life, even though there have not been any other indicators. This can help them to take preventative measures, later in life. In addition to this, the knowledge can be used to make addiction treatment much more effective. This is especially the case for those who have childhood trauma. Through counseling and understanding, people can begin to make peace with their past. Although a lot of people turn to substance abuse to deal with the past, it’s important to know that becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs can harm your present and your future. There is no denying that if you find yourself dependent on alcohol or drugs, you should look for substance abuse treatment centers. That being said, alongside your treatment, you may find that uncovering your childhood trauma is one of the best ways for you to move forward with your life and to move past the things that have been holding you back. Substance abuse recovery can be a long and difficult road, but seeking a trauma specialist is so important with aiding in addiction recovery.

The Impact of Adolescent Trauma on the Adult Brain

For the brain to work properly, every part of the brain needs to communicate from the bottom to the top. The left and the right also need to communicate. When the lower part of the brain, or the brain that is responsible for survival, is activated again and again, you may find that other brain connections are reduced. This can affect your learning capabilities, your ability to form memories and even regulate your emotions. It also impacts your ability to think and be calm. Research has shown that those who have adult PTSD have a reduction within their prefrontal cortex, as well as a reduction in their hippocampus volume. Those who have adult PTSD may find that they are overwhelmed with stress, and therefore have an increase in amygdala activity. This results in them having a more frequent and intense startle response, as well as causing more noradrenaline being released into the body.

The developing brain remembers traumatic events so that survival logs can be made, and then triggered should danger be sensed. This can appear as a fight, flight or freeze behavior. The lower part of the brain has a tendency to predominate, in those who have trauma. By understanding the neuroscience behind trauma, people can increase their understanding of addiction and therefore pave healthier coping mechanisms for the future.  This can have a major benefit on recovery times, as well as helping people to gain a higher level of understanding about the way that their brain in particular works.

If you want to learn more about linking childhood trauma to adult addictions, or if you are looking for a holistic solution for trauma then you need to check out our new book, Deconstructing Trauma. It’s the ultimate guidebook to healing and helps you reprogram the parts of your brain that have been affected by traumatic experiences. There’s never been a better time for you to take a step toward recovery than now!

About Renee Frye

Hello, my name is Renee Frye. I am a Trauma-Healing Holistic Specialist and the owner and founder of Sacred Sol Healing Institute®. I am a life wellness educator and coach, a mindfulness expert, a substance abuse recovery specialist, and an indigenous healer. We believe in holistic care, focusing on the whole person; in this way, we become our own best resource. We all need healthy life-support skills. You are not alone.

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