There used to be a time when trauma treatment was separate from addiction treatment. However, times have changed, and today, addiction and trauma treatment centers in North Carolina combine therapeutic approaches to help people suffering from both traumatic experiences and substance abuse, mainly with drugs and alcohol. Understanding the connection between trauma and substance abuse is crucial for an individual’s road to recovery. 

At Crest View’s trauma rehabilitation treatment center in North Carolina, we are not only experts in helping our patients with sobriety but strive to provide beneficial resources and coping techniques to help with everyday situations. We believe a healthy lifestyle is attainable, but not without dedication and perseverance. Therefore, the question is, what do you need to know about the connection between trauma and substance abuse? Moreover, how can the right therapeutic environment help you today? 

Traumatic Experiences are Risk Factors for Addiction

According to Healthline, a traumatic event is defined as an incident or experience that results in emotional, physical, psychological, or spiritual harm. As a result, a person going through this distressing event feels frightened, threatened, and anxious. In some cases, more often than not, an individual is so frozen in shock, that they do not know how to respond, or subconsciously be in denial that such an event ever occurred.   

Truth is, everyone is going to encounter some kind of stressful or dangerous situations in their lifetime, and fortunately, our body has a natural, built-in stress response to threatening situations trauma-treatment-centerscalled the  “fight or flight response.” When someone is in a stressful or dangerous situation and experiences fear and anxiety, the body goes through several changes:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Muscles become tense
  • Your vision may narrow (tunnel vision)
  • You may begin to sweat
  • Your hearing may become more sensitive

All of these changes mentioned above are part of this fight or flight response. As the name implies, these changes are meant to prepare the body to evoke some sort of automatic reaction, to help us survive. For example, you may have a fear or anxiety public speaking, or meeting new people. You may suffer an experience that you just can’t shake. 

Wouldn’t it be great if anxiety and fear only occurred in dire situations? Unfortunately, that is not how it works. A person who has a traumatic experience, such as sexual assault, develops trauma-related risk factors depending on age, family history, etc. These risk factors include PTSD and anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders. 

A person with a disorder such as PTSD may experience constant fear and anxiety as a result, but public speaking or meeting new people are not necessarily dangerous situations that threaten our survival. However, to a person with underlying issues, they see it differently. Believe it or not, research proves that our body cannot always recognize the difference between a real or imagined threat. Therefore, when someone consciously thinks that a situation is a threat to them, such as the common fear of public speaking, our body is naturally going to react as if that were true when it is not. For example, public speaking often induces anxiety for most, so every time that someone has to speak in front of an audience, their body produces some sort of panic mode, even though there is no actual danger present. Most people would not know how to react at the moment, but surprisingly they don’t without help. 

However, when a person has been in an actual scary situation, and the body reacts, experts at trauma treatment centers in NC can tell you, it doesn’t matter what you call it. Regardless, whether feeling anxious or stressed, it is not uncommon for a person to experience intrusive thoughts, and unwelcome memories that come up at inopportune times. Naturally, a person experiencing this would want to make the problem go away as quickly as possible, but what that individual fails to see at the time, is that the situation is more complicated and therefore, they are doing more harm than good. 

An individual who has experienced a traumatic event will need support and time to recover and regain emotional and mental stability. Unfortunately, as a result, people believe that alcohol or painkillers are the only way to quiet their negative thoughts from the trauma for a while. Extensive research has proven that trauma is a risk factor that leads to substance abuse, or the development of substance use disorders (SUDs). Simply, drug and alcohol abuse increases the probability that adolescents will experience some sort of trauma in their lifetime. 

We are here to say that resorting to drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is not the answer. Even though they are easily seen as a temporary fix, before you know it, you can’t live without these substances. Therefore, you take a drug not just to get high or to overcome anxiety, shame, guilt, anger, or fear, but to feel some sort of normalcy again. Thus, people with risk factors due to trauma need a combination of trauma and addiction treatment. The Trauma Treatment Center in NC is here to help. 

Addiction and Trauma Treatment Protocol

One of the most important interactions you’ll have is the initial intake interview, also known as medical detox. This comprehensive process offers an individual the opportunity to put all their cards on the table, basically allowing the treatment center to get to know who you are, and you learn about what the facility can do for you in return. Furthermore, our addiction specialists will ask a series of questions and record everything about your medical history, including the drugs you take and your life experiences, including the traumatic circumstances that are haunting you.

Specifically, during this introductory process, there’s no judgment at all, as they are here to help make you better, not scold you. Instead, our counselors will perform a dual diagnosis assessment to dig deeper into your situation to help figure out your trauma, and most importantly, how and why it caused a dependency on drugs and alcohol or both. There could be a chance that you may be struggling with a mental health disorder.

Once your profile’s complete, it’s time to set up a treatment protocol that meets your unique needs. For example, possible modalities include:

Dual diagnosis programs in NC typically combine group and individual counseling. Since there are various underlying factors and different mental health disorders in play, it makes sense to increase therapeutic options. For example, process group therapy encourages the development and application of coping skills. It’s not enough to strategize how you might react in everyday life situations; it’s best to find out hands-on, in a professional setting that could help you long-term, and more importantly, save your life. 

How Reality Therapy Supports Trauma Recovery

While there are a variety of effective methods of treatment for trauma, the excellent trauma treatment centers in North  Carolina, such as Crest View, may utilize reality-based therapy as a part of one’s treatment plan. It’s an opportunity for living what you’re learning, essentially preparing our clients for sustainable, life-long sobriety. While most rehab facilities will prevent you from leaving the center, this program schedules outings. Also, groups of peers go for fun outings alongside therapists.

You’ll never be in a situation you can’t handle. Moreover, you’re not on your own. However, being outside the facility allows you to relate to people without using drugs or alcohol. It also helps you gauge your ability to walk away when others might be using.

Coping skills go hand-in-hand with life skills. You will begin to feel comfortable with daily situations, such as shopping and planning. If you have trouble, you’ll continue to work with your therapist for as long as time warrants it.

For example, if cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) doesn’t work any longer, your therapist might switch you to dialectical behavior treatment (DBT). This type of therapy focuses on emotional regulation in situations, which will help control your emotions, which sometimes are unable to be controlled. You may find this shift in treatment can have a tremendous impact on your overall recovery.

Don’t Give Up; Get Help Instead!

It’s difficult to face what is bothering you, especially if it was a traumatic experience. Just because you went through a horrible ordeal, does not mean that substance use has to be the answer to making your problems disappear. Truth is, drug and alcohol abuse will only make things worse. Both addiction and trauma, which are categorized as substance use disorders  (SUDs), will immobilize you. At Crest View Recovery Center, we are here to tell those of you who are struggling, that you are NOT alone. Our experts in the field of trauma and addiction treatment want to help you heal. Contact us today, by calling us at (866) 327-2505 to set up a time to talk to a counselor about getting back on the path to sobriety.

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Article Reviewed by Patrice Wishon, LCSW, LCAS, CCS

Patrice Wishon, LCSW, LCAS, CCSPatrice has over 30 years experience working in social work and mental health/substance abuse counseling. She received her Master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and has worked in a variety of settings, including community-based outpatient, hospital and classroom settings. Patrice specializes in substance abuse treatment, trauma and women’s issues.