The Link Between Trauma and Substance Abuse
Since the 1970’s professional therapists have acknowledged that trauma is often the culprit in the development of substance abuse disorders. These traumas can include one or more of the following: childhood neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse; it has been proven that these traumas are often the main factor in the development of substance abuse disorders. Abuse is also often the culprit for anxiety disorders, depression and suicide.
Scientific studies have found that children who are consistently subjected to stress and trauma are wired differently than children who live and are raised in a safe secure environment. But how is trauma detrimental to the development of a child? When stress or threat occurs, the individual’s body responds with a “fight or flight” reaction. The powerful hormone cortisol is released, and although it is important and can be a protection device in emergencies, if chronic stress occurs, the levels become toxic and the cortisol damages and kill neurons that are present in crucial parts of the brain. Hyperarousal, which causes an elevated heart rate, body temperature, and continuous angst, are continually present in the person’s life. An internal reaction is that the child disassociates, shutting down, and detaching from emotions and feelings in order to adapt. The younger the child, the more likely they are to suffer from posttraumatic stress. This takes place due to the fact that they are helpless to be able to fight or flee. A state of helplessness becomes a learned response to life and the effects will reverberate throughout the child’s development unless treated.