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Trauma and Substance Use

Substance use is extremely common in individuals who have trauma. In fact, the 2010 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed that almost half of people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have some kind of a substance use disorder, and one in five are substance dependent. Symptoms of trauma can include persistent memories or flashbacks, anxiety, irritability, feeling on edge, irritability, insomnia, loss of interest, and a feeling of emptiness or numbness. When someone has gone through trauma, and they don’t have the resources to cope, they often try to find anything to relieve their symptoms – including substances.

So what does this mean for substance abuse treatment?

If symptoms of trauma are so overwhelming that they lead to self-medication, it can be effective to treat both simultaneously. This allows relief from symptoms that survivors of trauma have been trying to medicate away, while at the same time focusing on treating the addiction which has taken on a life of its own. There are many trauma treatments out there, from Somatic Experiencing, to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), to Prolonged Exposure.

At AToN, we offer EMDR therapy, a treatment that has been shown to be highly effective in treating symptoms of trauma. Trauma can be a difficult thing to confront, but when done with a skilled clinician in a safe environment, most people find that it is well worth it!

Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
Psychologist
AToN Center 888-535-1516