Understand Trauma and Addiction in Alberta

Understand Trauma and Addiction in Alberta

People who have suffered trauma in Alberta often need to address its lasting effects before they can get a handle on their substance use. Many people with substance use disorder have trauma in their backgrounds.  

The truth is traumatic events shape you. Trauma can be different for everyone. What might be traumatic for one person can seem like normal life problems for another. Trauma in individuals with addiction needs to be treated uniquely. Whether it’s a childhood experience or something faced as an adult, these situations change how one sees the world and how a person views themselves. It’s not uncommon to hear that someone who has suffered a traumatic experience or troubled childhood now struggles with addiction whether to alcohol, drugs or any other unhealthy coping mechanism.

The word trauma is used today in Alberta more than it ever was before. While some people might feel like the word is overused, many mental health professionals would say that we’ve just become better at recognizing the lasting impact that trauma (from losses to abuse) has in our lives.

There is a deadly link between trauma and addiction in Alberta. Many people with substance use disorder have trauma in their backgrounds. Trauma causes residual lasting mental pain. If you don’t address the trauma, you might find yourself self-medicating to escape the mental pain caused by the trauma. Using drugs or alcohol to cover your mental pain will just cause more difficulties in the long run. That’s why it’s so important to find a treatment centre that understands the interplay of trauma and addiction. Addiction and trauma must be treated concurrently. 

If you or someone you love has a substance abuse disorder because of past trauma or PTSD, that’s not the end of the story. You can find peace and healing, as well as freedom from the substance holding you or your family member captive. Contact us today in Edmonton, Red Deer or Calgary to get started on your road to recovery.

Understanding Trauma and Addiction in Alberta

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event or series of ongoing events. As mentioned previously, what constitutes a terrible event varies from person to person. An event that is traumatic for one individual might not cause trauma or harm for other people, even if they experience the very same event. Anything from abuse to a natural disaster to an accident can cause trauma. Even witnessing these events happening to another person can cause trauma in one’s life.

While it’s normal to experience some psychological distress after a major event. Consider the stress that we all experienced early on during the pandemic. But, for most people, the stress gets better with time. If you find that your stress continues to interfere with your life, you might have trauma. Symptoms of trauma can include flashbacks, headaches and nausea.

Sometimes, trauma can evolve into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by the lasting effects of trauma that impact life. Albertans with PTSD might have flashbacks or nightmares; they might avoid certain situations that remind them of the traumatic event.

The Connection Between Trauma and Addiction in Alberta

substance abuse

There’s a close connection between trauma and addiction. A 2019 study compared people who were getting treatment for opioid abuse disorder with healthy individuals. It found that the people in treatment reported more severe traumas and more instances of trauma in their lives. The study found that the more trauma people experienced, the more likely they were to experience addiction.

The connection can be particularly strong for people who experience trauma as teens or children. Among teens who needed addiction treatment, 70% reported trauma in their backgrounds. In addition, 59% of teens with PTSD go on to develop a substance abuse problem.

Common Traumatic Events That Can Lead to Addiction

  • Victims or witnesses of crime or accidents.  These individuals often struggle with fear, rage, and a sense of helplessness.  These emotions can adversely affect or alter their way of life.
  • Catastrophic events.  Experiencing a catastrophe such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, fire, or other disaster makes a person feel vulnerable. They may be on edge, wondering if it’s going to happen again.  Many individuals develop PTSD after experiencing one of these events.
  • Grief after losing a loved one. Whether the loss was sudden or expected after a long illness, the resulting grief can cause anxiety, depression, and substance use.
  • Military deployment or combat. Many military veterans struggle with bad dreams, flashbacks, and extreme tension.  These PTSD symptoms often lead a person to use drugs or alcohol as a means of escape.
  • Sexual abuse or other physical violence. In many sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows. As a result, the victim fears exposing the crime and will suffer feelings of mistrust and betrayal. The abused person is often ashamed to talk about the experience or seek medical attention. This type of untreated trauma can lead to substance abuse.
  • Childhood neglect or abuse. The effects of childhood trauma can extend far into adulthood. These individuals often have difficulty forming relationships. They may show poor performance in school or at work, have low self-esteem, and are more likely to use drugs or alcohol later in life.  

Self-Medicating for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Alberta (PTSD)

self medicating

Some theories suggest that the reason for the association between trauma and addiction is self-medicating to alleviate PTSD symptoms. The origins and effects of how one condition informs the other vary, from case to case. There is evidence to support that the choice of drug links with the type of post-traumatic symptoms being experienced. Alcohol dependence can be more strongly associated with hyperarousal symptoms than cocaine dependence.  An individual’s drug of choice, either depressant or stimulant, may reflect an attempt to alleviate a particular type of symptom.

For many Albertans, substance abuse may temporarily offer relief from PTSD symptoms.  People with insomnia and hyperarousal may use alcohol to excess to blackout and sleep.  Stimulants may create excitement to override feeling numb. Opioids can reduce anxiety. If substances didn’t provide some form of temporary relief, fewer people with PTSD would develop a substance use disorder (SUD). Considering addiction as self-medication of trauma also makes sense as a framework for helping individuals develop recovery plans and engage in treatment as a means to find self-compassion and change.

Trauma and Addiction Treatment in Alberta

Trauma-informed addiction treatment in Alberta is an approach that recognizes the influence of trauma on Substance Use Disorders, drug addiction or alcoholism. Whatever you feel comfortable calling it; treatment for trauma and self-medicating must be treated together. The method used to treat trauma and addiction aims to help someone identify and manage the underlying factors that influenced their substance use behaviour. 

If you have experienced trauma or if you believe you may have PTSD, you need to access a recovery centre that is trauma-informed. The trauma-informed treatment centres in Alberta we work with have knowledge about the ways that trauma impacts the brain. They are able to help you address your substance abuse disorder, while also helping to mend and heal from your trauma.

The skilled addiction treatment professionals we work with across Alberta understand that each person responds differently to recovery programs. Our primary goal is to provide the highest level of treatment with an individualized approach. In this way, our Alberta clients are more prepared to deal with the challenges and pressures of everyday life and relationships. With trauma-informed addiction treatment, they gain the skills, confidence, and restored self-esteem necessary for confronting and overcoming their problems and stressors.

When it comes to treating co-occurring disorders such as trauma and addiction, an inpatient or residential program is found to be the most effective. However, we can also connect our clients in Calgary, Edmonton and even Red Deer with medically assisted, sober coaching, partial hospitalization, or intensive outpatient programs (IOPs). 

Getting Help for Yourself or Loved One in Alberta

addiction counsellors

Trauma is extremely common: up to 70% of adults in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. Some people recover on their own, while the trauma lingers for others. Too often, people use drugs or alcohol to try to numb or escape the trauma. Oftentimes, people need help to overcome trauma in their lives. 

Finding and utilizing a treatment centre in Alberta that has a trauma-informed approach to treating substance use disorder can help you understand the role that trauma plays in your addiction. Then, by addressing the underlying cause of your addiction, you’re better able to stay clean and sober long-term.

To learn more about our programs and the treatment centres we work within Alberta and across Canada, contact us today. One of our addiction specialists or interventionists is available to answer your questions and assist you and your family in choosing a treatment plan that is right for your needs. Learn more about how to choose interventionists in Alberta here. 

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