Tag Archives: trauma

Trauma, PTSD, and Substance Use Disorder

trauma

Trauma can dramatically impact the course of one’s life; if it is left unaddressed, adverse experiences can lead to premature death. A new report on mortality from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that childhood trauma is a public health issue that we must address. The report shows that one in six people across the United States has experienced four or more kinds of adverse childhood experiences or ACEs.

Trauma can take many different shapes: neglect, abuse, familial separation (i.e., adoption), and exposure to mental health or substance abuse problems. Each person is different; an event may be more traumatic for one person than it is for another. There is no way to predict how an experience will influence a young person.

Author Junot Díaz, writing for The New Yorker in a piece titled: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, said, “Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before.” His writing lays out how an adverse childhood experience influenced everything, from relationships to employment.

In the field of addiction medicine, professionals are acutely aware of the correlation between childhood trauma and substance use and abuse. Paradoxically, many will use drugs and alcohol to cope with untreated trauma, but the practice has the unintended effect of placing such people at risk of being re-traumatized. It’s a vicious cycle, an ouroboros: a snake eating its tail.

Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Traumatic events, at any point in life, can have disastrous consequences like the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, when traumas or ACEs occur during one’s formative years, the risk of experiencing more significant problems is much higher. A previous study from the CDC on adverse childhood experiences found:

  • For each ACE, the risk for early initiation of substance abuse increases two to four times.
  • Individuals with three or more ACEs have higher rates of depression, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and heart disease.
  • Men and women with five or more ACEs are seven to 10 times more likely to become substance abusers.
  • Almost two-thirds of intravenous drug users report ACEs in their history.

Trauma, whether it occurs as a child or in adulthood, must be addressed by professionals. Too often, the lingering effects of trauma are left untreated; PTSD becomes a person’s reality, and self-medication ensues. Drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief, but the practice places people at risk of developing alcohol and substance-related issues. PTSD and addiction are common co-occurring disorders.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that about one-third of people exposed to trauma develop PTSD. Moreover, 75 percent of people in substance abuse treatment report having experienced abuse and trauma. While men are more likely to be exposed to traumatic events, women are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.

Veterans with PTSD and Substance Use Disorder

With Veterans Day around the corner, we must discuss rampant PTSD and substance use disorder (SUD) in the military. As we pointed out, exposure to adverse events can lead people down a precarious path. If an individual doesn’t receive care and support for their condition, then they are likely to resort to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than 2 of 10 veterans with PTSD also have SUD. What’s more, almost 1 out of every 3 veterans seeking treatment for SUD has PTSD as well.

Fortunately, effective treatments exist to address both PTSD and SUD simultaneously. Those who experience trauma as a child or in adulthood, who develop use disorders can and do recover.

We have found that both posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use can be treated concurrently [meaning, at the same time].” — Ronald E. Acierno, Ph.D., Vice-Chair For Veteran Affairs and Executive Director Of The UTHealth Trauma And Resilience Center

Orange County Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

If you are struggling with PTSD, SUD, or both, then please contact PACE Recovery Center at your earliest convenience. We specialize in the treatment of men who face challenges related to addiction and mental health disorders. We offer several different types of programs to serve the unique needs of each client best.

Recovery begins with a phone call or email to an admissions counselor. Please take the first step: 800-526-1851.

Addiction and Adoption Link is Complicated

addiction

Practically everything can go right with a person’s upbringing, and addiction can still develop. Mental and behavioral health disorders are complex diseases that experts continue to study. Both genetics and environmental factors have a hand in who will be affected by alcohol and substance use disorders. Still, predicting who will struggle in adulthood is hard to foresee; this is especially true for the adopted.

In the United States, some 135,000 children are adopted, according to the Adoption Network. Another 428,000 kids are living in foster care, and many of them are waiting to be adopted. In 2016, the number of children waiting for a family was 117,794. The transition from foster care to adoption is often a protracted process; more than 60 percent of children wait 2-5 years.

It’s not difficult to imagine that waiting years for placement, sometimes in less-than-adequate living conditions, can be traumatic. Even those who are adopted at birth can face significant challenges as they age, despite being cared for by a loving family.

Many adopted children are born to parents with histories of addiction, thus increasing the risk that the child too may experience problems in the future. Children removed from families due to neglect or abuse face their own set of challenges as they age. They often lack the coping skills to deal with stress. Lingering trauma can precipitate the development of mental health conditions and self-harming behaviors later in life.

The Trauma of Adoption

The links between trauma and addiction cannot be overemphasized. People who experience trauma at any stage of life are at risk of problems. This is especially true when a traumatic event occurs earlier in life. Being relinquished from one’s family can take a toll on young people who often are ill-equipped to make sense of their situation.

We must remember that leaving behind family and friends, even when one’s home life is toxic, can give a boy or girl feelings of abandonment. Such sentiments are compounded by becoming a ward of the state or by being adopted by a strange family. Who could fault a child for feeling helpless?

Inconsistent and insecure attachment styles are prevalent among adopted children. Even though life was chaotic with birth parents, many children yearn to be reconnected. This fact can make it difficult for children to connect with their new families. Adopted children may struggle to form relationships with their peers due to insecure attachment styles. They may fear rejection and have concerns that their new family is temporary.

The above circumstances can result in several issues, including anxiety and depression, emotional dysregulation, and difficulty connecting with others. Unable to cope with emotions and feeling cut off from society can lead to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms or a desire to escape. If not physically, then mentally via the use of drugs and alcohol.

Assume that all children who have been adopted or fostered have experienced trauma.” — American Academy of Pediatrics [“Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope with Trauma.”]

Adoption and Addiction

Childhood trauma – adoption-related or otherwise – can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Substance use disorders are also highly comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood-related psychopathology, according to Depression & Anxiety. The process of adoption is traumatic alone. If you consider that the precursors of adoption are often physical and emotional abuse, it’s not hard to see why many adoptees develop substance use disorders.

Parental substance use was the documented reason for removal of almost 31 percent of all children placed in foster care in 2012, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS). Moreover, the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect shows that that percentage surpassed 60 percent in several states.

A genetic predisposition to addiction, trauma, and other co-occurring issues together significantly increase the risk of addiction that adoptees face. Once an alcohol or substance use disorder develops, it exacerbates the other concerns. The mind-altering substances may alleviate one mental health disorder symptoms initially, but they will make matters worse down the road.

Adoptees living with addiction and co-occurring mental illness must seek professional help. Ideally, they will seek out a treatment program that specializes in adoption-related issues.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Treatment

Males are adopted at higher rates than females. As such, many adopted men are struggling with addiction, mental illness, and other adoption-related issues. At PACE Recovery Center, we offer a specialized track that caters to the unique circumstances for adoptees struggling with mental health conditions.

Led by Brett Furst, M.A., MFTI, our program addresses the underlying causes of mental health issues and addiction in adopted men. We can give you or your loved one the tools to heal from mental health issues or substance use disorder. Please contact us today to learn more about PACE Recovery Center’s adoption programming.

Addiction Linked to Trauma: Finding Recovery

addiction

People who struggle with drugs and alcohol share many commonalities. While each person’s story is unique, there are many experiences that men and women in the grips of addiction share.

In the rooms of recovery, it is not uncommon for an individual to hear parts of their story when another member shares. This is because the life events that often precipitate chemical dependency have similar effects on each person’s brain. Not always, some people seem naturally equipped to better cope with adverse experiences, particularly adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Still, a large percentage of people who deal with addiction were subject to traumatic events during childhood.

Children will begin using mind-altering substances after they experience trauma 76 percent of the time, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Scientists have found correlations between growing up in a chaotic household or being separated from parents via foster care or adoption and addiction. When a child’s equilibrium is disrupted, or they lose their sense of security, it can leave lasting impressions on their psyches. They may be unable to develop healthy coping skills for dealing with stress, as a result. Such scenarios can lay a foundation for the development of mental and behavioral health problems in adulthood.

The same can be said for emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; such traumatic experiences are part of many alcoholic’s and addict’s stories. When a child lacks the tools to cope or never receives professional help in the wake of abuse, they are at significant risk of looking for unhealthy means of escape.

Lifetime drug and alcohol use is positively associated with exposure to childhood physical, sexual, and emotional abuse severity, overall trauma exposure, and higher levels of emotional dysregulation, according to the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

From Trauma and Addiction to Recovery

Addiction is a complex disease that develops from many different factors; a combination of nature, nurture, and genetics play vital roles in disease progression. Even when severe trauma isn’t present, it is still possible for a person to develop an alcohol or substance use problem.

Not all addictions are rooted in abuse or trauma, but I do believe they can all be traced to painful experience,” Dr. Gabor Maté wrote in his 2010 bestseller, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. “A hurt is at the center of all addictive behaviors.”

Fortunately, it is possible to recover from both the lasting effects of trauma and addictive disorders. At PACE Recovery Center, we have worked with many young men over the years who had ACE-related post-traumatic stress and co-occurring substance use disorders. With professional counseling that utilizes evidence-based treatments, each person can achieve lasting recovery.

One young man recently shared about his journey from addiction to healing from trauma and finding recovery. Thrive Global is an organization that helps “individuals, companies and communities improve their well-being and performance and unlock their greatest potential. One of their projects is called From Addict to Entrepreneur. As the name suggests, it involves interviewing people who have overcome their addictions to lead successful, healthy, and productive lives in recovery.

Project creator Michael Dash recently spoke with author and adventure coach Aaron Rentfrew about his traumatic past and struggles with addiction.

Dealing WIth Trauma and Finding Recovery

In a lengthy interview, Rentfrew shares about his addiction and then about his path to recovery. He says that he had a mostly normal childhood until a messy divorce left him in foster care for a year. Then he bounced between homes before finally settling with his mother in the 5th grade.

In middle school, he learned that his suspicions were correct about being molested as a child. The confirmation of abuse was the impetus for Aaron withdrawing from friends and family. He would eventually turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with his feelings; substance use helped him escape.

“What drew me deeper and deeper into my addiction was the untreated trauma from my childhood. It was a gaping wound that left me feeling empty and confused. I had trouble feeling normal without being intoxicated, and this cascaded into a life of constant drug use and abuse. I had to be completely wasted to find balance and a sense of normality.”

After years of substance abuse and heartache, Rentfrew reached out for help from a close friend. He was put in touch with other sober people, and he began working a program of recovery. Of equal importance to confronting addiction, Aaron worked on the trauma.

“I had to deal with the trauma around my childhood, which was the spark that started the fire. I did this by having frank and honest discussions with my parents and seeking to understand the full scope of what happened.”

Through dedication and hard work, Aaron was able to put his life back together and now helps others do the same. He believes that helping someone else with a problem you worked through is the cornerstone of recovery.

Specialists in Adoption-Related Treatment

At PACE Recovery Center, our dedicated team of professionals helps adult men who struggle with addiction and mental health conditions. We have created a unique program for clients whose lives are negatively impacted by the trauma that stems from adoption. Please contact us today if you were adopted and are contending with untreated mental or behavioral health issues.

PTSD Awareness Month 2019: Treatment is Available

PTSD

Addiction and trauma often go hand in hand; many people cope with post-traumatic stress by self-medicating. Severe physical or mental injury can lead to troubling symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, avoidance, hypervigilance, anxiety, and depression. When PTSD goes untreated, men and women look for relief; alcohol and illicit drug use often become people’s remedy.

As many individuals know, using mind-altering substances to cope with symptoms of mental illness is a slippery slope. What starts as a method of quieting one’s mind can quickly morph into an alcohol or substance use disorder. Moreover, self-medication typically worsens the symptoms people are trying to ease.

Americans most often associate trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with combat; those who witness the horrors of war can face lingering effects. However, mental wounds can arise from any experience that an individual lacks the ability to handle. Many factors can play a role in why some develop a condition and others do not. When it comes to average citizens, surviving abuse, natural disasters, and sexual assault can result in post-traumatic stress. It is vital that people who are suffering from psychological distress or re-experiencing trauma seek help immediately. The condition can progressively worsen over time, especially if drugs and alcohol are involved.

Signs of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest in several different ways; it also affects people on a spectrum severity. Everyone experiences fear when they encounter scary or dangerous events; and, what they experience may bother them for a time. Still, most people are not haunted by troubling events and will bounce back to their usual self eventually.

Unfortunately, many men and women continue to experience psychological problems stemming from trauma. About seven or eight of every 100 people will experience post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Center for PTSD.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) lays down the criteria for receiving a PTSD diagnosis. An adult must have all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom (e.g., flashbacks, nightmares, and frightening thoughts).
  • At least one avoidance symptom (e.g., staying away from places, events, or objects).
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms (e.g., being jumpy, tense, or angry).
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms (e.g., trouble remembering aspects of the trauma, negative thoughts, guilt or blame, or anhedonia).

PTSD Awareness Month 2019

Encouraging people to reach out for help regarding their difficulties with trauma is vital. Millions of Americans can benefit significantly from obtaining professional advice. But, like any mental illness, stigma often prevents those men and women from seeking treatment.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. Now is the time to get the message out: treatment is available, and it works. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and several organizations are asking for everyone’s help; together, we can end the stigma and empower those struggling to seek professional assistance.

During PTSD Awareness Month, and throughout the entire year, help raise awareness about the many different PTSD treatment options. You can make a difference in the lives of Veterans and others who have experienced trauma. Everyone can help.

If you would like to get involved with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Month, please click here. The VA offers several materials to guide your messages about treatment and recovery.

Addiction and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment

People who have PTSD are between two and four times more likely to struggle with addiction than their peers who do not have the disorder, the journal Clinical Psychology reports. Individuals who are battling both PTSD and addiction must consult with treatment centers that are equipped to treat both conditions simultaneously.

Long-term recovery rests on addressing the dual-diagnosis along with the addiction.

Please contact PACE Recovery Center today to learn more about our men’s gender-specific treatment center. Importantly, one does not have to be diagnosed with a substance misuse disorder to participate in the PACE Mental Health Program. We are standing by to answer any questions you may have for yourself or a loved one.

PTSD Awareness Month: Learn, Connect, and Share

PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness Month; we can all help those affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a severe iteration of mental illness that requires treatment and daily maintenance; those who recover rely on a combination of trauma-focused psychotherapy, counseling, and non-narcotic medications. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of individuals living with the affliction never receive the kind of care they require; such persons are apt to turn to drugs and alcohol to cope which only serves to make the underlying condition more serious.

Those of you in recovery from alcoholism and substance use disorder are no strangers to trauma; after all, people’s active addiction often involves one uncomfortable experience after another. In some cases, traumatic experiences precipitate the use of mind-altering substances; in other scenarios, people’s substance use puts them into situations where experiencing trauma is almost a foregone conclusion. Human beings are capable of putting themselves at great peril due to mental illness; as a result, one both inflicts wrongs upon others or are their self the victim of another person's’ wrongdoing; in either case, being OK in one’s skin and sleeping at night is not an easy endeavor.

The painful incidents that occur during active addiction often lead to a vicious cycle; using leads to trauma and one of the reasons people continue to use is to quiet the internal echoes of one’s past discomforting episodes, and at a certain point, one loses sight of where the trauma ends, and they begin.

Trauma is a time traveller, an ouroboros that reaches back and devours everything that came before." —Junot Díaz

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD

Not surprisingly, PTSD is one of the more common co-occurring mental health disorders accompanying alcohol and substance use disorder. While treatment is effective and long-term recovery is possible, people living with the afflictions like PTSD often struggle accessing assistance. Encouraging people to seek help is of the utmost importance, and society benefits when those struggling receive aid.

In order for individuals to get treatment we first need to discuss what the condition looks like; the signs manifest differently in each person, but the National Center for PTSD lists four symptoms:

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
  3. Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can't trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

PTSD, Self-Harm, and Suicide

Most people associate post-traumatic stress with combat; those returning from conflicts overseas often experience lingering effects from exposure to trauma. However, PTSD doesn’t just affect veterans, a noteworthy percentage of general public struggles with the condition, as well; in fact:

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10 of every 100 women (or 10%) develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (or 4%).

In the absence of treatment, people rely on using drugs and alcohol to cope with their feelings of hopelessness, shame, and despair. While mind-altering substances may quiet one’s anxiety and depression, alcohol and substance use tend only to exacerbate the underlying condition. It’s worth mentioning again that self-medicating mental illness is a vicious cycle; the behavior is a sure path to addiction, self-defeating behaviors, and self-harm. There is a robust association between PTSD and suicidal ideation or attempts. If you or a loved one is contending with thoughts of self-harm, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Encouraging PTSD Treatment

Greater understanding and awareness of PTSD will help Veterans and others recognize symptoms, and seek and obtain needed care." - Dr. Paula P. Schnurr, Executive Director of the National Center for PTSD

During June, the National Center for PTSD asks that everyone take some time to Learn about PTSD and the valid forms of available treatments; Connect with support services for yourself or a loved one—reach out for help; and Share what you learn about PSTD with the world via social media. When we work together to take the mystery out of mental illness, we can encourage more people to seek help.

At PACE Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one learn how to navigate life without resorting to drug and alcohol to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Our highly qualified team of addiction professionals can address your co-occurring mental health disorders and teach you effective coping skills. Please contact us today to learn more about our programs.

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