ptsd awareness
By Katie Sebring, LPC, M.Ed.
Katie Sebring, LPC, M.Ed.
Published: September 22, 2021
Updated: September 22, 2021

It’s rare to find any adult who doesn’t have an ample amount of stress on their plates these days.  Often, these stressful emotions that people are experiencing are more than just reactions to present day situations.  Fear and anxiety can be deeply rooted in unresolved trauma, current trauma, or extreme circumstances.  Trauma is defined as deeply distressing or disturbing experiences. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse is what we commonly associate with trauma, but this also would include loss of a loved one, a car accident, a natural disaster, and even just receiving bad news.

A traumatic experience becomes traumatic when one is overwhelmed with the ability to cope.  A rush of emotions such as sadness, hopelessness, fear, or anxiety might take over unexpectedly.

To put trauma at the focal point of this blog: Researchers have been studying the connection between trauma and addiction to understand why so many drug and alcohol abusers have histories of traumatic experiences. Data from over 17,000 patients in an Adverse Childhood Experiences study done by Kaiser Permanente, found that a child who experiences four or more traumatic events is five times more likely to become an alcoholic, 60% more likely to become obese, and up to 46 times more likely to become an injection-drug user than the general population. Other studies have found similar connections between childhood trauma and addiction, and studies by the Veterans Administration have led to estimates that between 35-75% of veterans with PTSD abuse drugs and alcohol.

Addiction is often a response to past trauma – whether that person realizes it or not. If one is not able to make this connection, it becomes much more complicated to address the underlying addiction.  These detailed links between trauma and addiction can highlight how to identify when past stress or abuse plays a role in substance use and abuse. These connections also show the importance of linking trauma and substance abuse treatment.

A person who was recently asked about overcoming trauma and recovery, who has been in recovery for 10 plus years now herself, had this to say, “trauma is something that will stick with you forever if you don’t learn ways to cope with it.  I struggled with flashbacks of trauma for a long time, and I had to do a lot of work to get through them without damaging healthy relationships. Not everyone will understand your trauma but the ones that love you will take the time to be patient with you while you work through it. But you have to work through it to be able to get to the other side and be a survivor of trauma and not a victim.”

To add to that insight, a BrightView Peer Recovery Support Specialist, said this about trauma, “when someone is in active addiction there can be a lot of different things that happen concerning trauma, along with other traumas from childhood or someone’s past. For me the best way to cope with trauma is to talk with a counselor. Counselors have been able to process these traumas with me, so I don’t have to face it alone. Recovery is about healing and being able to get out the emotions and traumas that have happened throughout our lives so that we are able to overcome. Keeping these things inside and trying to cope with these things alone can be difficult and we need others to help us along the way.”

If you are not comfortable with the idea of talking with a counselor or sharing your emotions with someone you know, online group forums are sometimes helpful, if you are mindful of your personal “online safety” in these forums and groups.  Identifying the forums that are there to help and those with good intention, can allow you to communicate freely with others who can lend a virtual ear and a virtual shoulder to lean on.

At BrightView, we understand that withdrawal symptoms can make you hesitant to quit using opioids. We aim to help you get through opioid withdrawal safely and comfortably with convenient outpatient treatment. When you choose treatment at our MAT clinic, you will benefit from our comprehensive approach to recovery. Our caring, professional team will design a customized treatment plan for you with a combination of methadone, behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family counseling. When you are ready to break free of your opioid addiction, give us a call at (513) 216-5442.