For the last four decades, mental health and drug addiction treatment professionals have been aware of the role that childhood trauma plays in various substance abuse problems. However, it has only been in recent years that treatment programs have addressed in what is now known as a duo-diagnosis. A study called “The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” evaluated data obtained from more than 17,000 patients and found a direct relationship between neglect and other forms of trauma with drug addiction. A young boy, for example, having four or more traumatic experiences is on average, 46 times more likely to become a victim of drug addiction compared to other children.
Researchers believe that childhood experiences set the foundation for brain chemistry. When neglected by parents, children have higher level of stress hormones, which decrease certain areas of the brain that regulate pleasure, reward, emotion and stress. Some of the affected areas also allow individuals to gauge self-control. Later in life, men turn to alcohol or drugs to self-soothe or artificially stimulate the brain pathways that should normally produce feel good chemicals.
Studies show that nearly one-half of men abusing substances do so in an effort to mask symptoms connected with emotional or psychiatric disorders. Instead of remembering unpleasant events, men may turn to alcohol or drugs to escape depression, fear, hopelessness or low self-esteem. Substances also allow men with drug addiction to numb guilt, reduce rage, encourage relaxation, reduce anxiety or eliminate suicidal thoughts. Chemically dependent men also often enter into social circles with like-minded people who provide a sense of family and acceptance that was missing in childhood.
Dual Treatment and Recovery
In cases where men have experienced childhood trauma and later become addicted, effective treatment must address both issues. Many are not consciously aware that the trauma probably led to the drug addiction until after they undergo therapy. If the emotional problems are not resolved, the cycle of abuse continues. Trauma-based therapy must first assure clients that they are emotionally and physically safe. A trusting relationship must develop between the drug addiction sufferers and caregivers. Clients must have a sense of control over different aspects of treatment and activities. Therapists strive to teach addicts how to become empowered and develop life skills that not only help overcome the chemical dependency but also lead to successful lives.
Treatment methods used to help men suffering from neglect trauma begin with an assessment that determines the problem exists. The treatment team then learns when the traumatic events occurred, how long they lasted and other information related to the abuse. Therapy involves helping the addict understand the trauma, the effects the problem has created and the symptoms that the problem causes.
Through individual therapy, men receive compassion, understanding and support to face the problem while learning how to overcome the after effects. Therapy also equips men with the necessary coping skills to deal with the emotional and psychological scars. Cognitive, behavioral and skill building exercises help men deal with both diagnoses and reduce the risk of relapse. In addition to therapy, facilities may also encourage acupuncture, massage therapy, nutritional instruction and other activities designed to reduce stress and encourage healing.
If someone you know seems to have constant problems when trying to break a substance use habit, know that there is help via our hotline. Speak to one of our trained counselors by calling the helpline at 800-890-3586.