Last Updated on May 29, 2024 by Dr. Alberto Solà

Traumatic events sometimes trigger addictive behaviors. They may also make a person more susceptible than others to substance use disorders (SUDs). Fortunately, an individual who knows how to counter trauma triggers is well-equipped to manage his or her addictive behaviors and prevent a relapse during addiction recovery.

Trauma and Drug Abuse: Here’s What You Need to Know

Trauma involves a single occurrence or may develop due to a series of experiences over time. Some of the reasons why trauma occurs include:

  • Accidents
  • Bullying
  • Child abuse
  • Crime
  • Domestic assault
  • Neglect
  • Violence

Psychological trauma refers to a response following an event that the nervous system perceives as a threat to oneself or others. It often affects a person in the following areas:

  • Cognition: May hamper a person’s ability to process thoughts and make sound judgments.
  • Emotions: May cause a person to experience guilt, shame, anger, and other negative emotions.
  • Physical Health: May interfere with a person’s ability to sleep, as well as cause muscle and joint pain, digestive problems, and body temperature fluctuations.
  • Social Engagement: May make it difficult for a person to maintain healthy relationships with family members, friends, colleagues, and others.

In addition to psychological trauma, a person may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or developmental trauma.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that affects people after they experience or witness a natural disaster, combat, or any other traumatic event. It may cause intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings that persist for an extended period of time after a traumatic event. PTSD may also lead people to avoid situations or people that remind them of a traumatic event.

Developmental trauma affects an individual at a young age. Since developmental trauma occurs early in life, it often impacts the development of a person’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social abilities as well.

Developmental trauma hinders brain development, and in doing so, may make it tough for an individual to process a traumatic event. As a result, those who experience developmental trauma may be more prone than others to any of the following psychological conditions:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social disabilities
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Trauma also increases the risk of substance abuse — just consider the following statistics from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies:

  • Up to 75% of people who have survived an abusive or violent traumatic experience report problematic alcohol use.
  • Up to 33% of people who survive accident-, illness-, or disaster-related trauma report problematic alcohol use.
  • Men and women who were sexually abused have higher rates of drug and alcohol use disorders than other men and women.

A trauma addiction may develop if an individual cannot cope with his or her thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event. If an individual knows how to identify trauma triggers, however, he or she can minimize the risk of long-term drug or alcohol abuse during addiction recovery.

How to Identify Trauma Triggers

There are two types of trauma triggers: internal and external.

Internal trauma triggers refer to thoughts or feelings that may lead to drug or alcohol use. They may include:

  • Negative feelings such as anxiety, fear, and guilt
  • Normal feelings such as boredom, pressure, and insecurity
  • Positive feelings such as strength, happiness, and excitement

Comparatively, external trauma triggers refer to people, places, or things that may make a person feel the need to use drugs or alcohol. They may also cause stress that increases the likelihood of a relapse during addiction recovery.

When it comes to internal and external trauma triggers, it is generally a good idea to have a plan in place to address them. To identify internal and external trauma triggers during addiction recovery, there are several questions to consider, including:

  • What prompts the urge to use drugs or alcohol?
  • Are there people, places, or things that drive drug or alcohol cravings?
  • Are there any situations where the urge to use drugs or alcohol becomes overwhelming?
  • What are some of the thoughts and feelings experienced before the urge to use drugs or alcohol strikes?

Additionally, there are many things that a person can do to manage his or her internal and external trauma triggers during addiction recovery, such as:

  • Meet with a Doctor: A doctor can offer recommendations and tips to help a person manage his or her thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of a traumatic event. He or she can also evaluate a patient and help this individual take the necessary steps to control a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Participate in Counseling: A mental health professional can help an individual identify the root cause of addictive behaviors and plan for an addiction-free life. Plus, this professional enables an individual to address his or her addiction concerns and move forward from a traumatic event.
  • Avoid Trauma Triggers: Whenever possible, avoid people, places, and things that otherwise trigger trauma-related thoughts and feelings. If a person can quickly identify his or her internal trauma triggers, this individual can manage these triggers before they lead to addictive behaviors.

There is no telling how a traumatic event will affect an individual who is recovering from an addiction. But if a person feels the need to use drugs or alcohol after a traumatic event, it is important to seek out medical help right away. That way, an individual can get the assistance he or she needs to prevent a drug or alcohol relapse during addiction recovery. 

The Bottom Line on Trauma and Addiction

Trauma and addiction are sometimes related. If a person understands how to identify and manage his or her trauma triggers, this individual can prevent a relapse during addiction recovery.

For people who are currently dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, Clear Sky Recovery can help, too. Our comprehensive ibogaine treatment helps patients address trauma that may contribute to addictive behaviors. It also empowers patients to overcome their addictive behaviors both now and in the future. To learn more about our ibogaine therapy program, please call us today at 305.901.5371.