Aug 02

Trauma and Substance Abuse

Trauma and Substance Abuse

Some people increase their use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to cope with how they are feeling after experiencing trauma. This is often called ‘self-medication.’ While this often gives some short-term relief, unfortunately, in the long run it can make things worse. Alcohol, tobacco and other drug use can interfere with the brain’s natural processing of the trauma and substance abuse patterns can then take root.

People often say that when they reduce or stop drinking, smoking or using, their trauma reactions become more frequent or intense. This is the body‘s way of saying that the trauma is unfinished business that needs to be dealt with. Some people find that they develop alcohol, tobacco or other drug problems because they need to drink or use greater amounts more frequently to keep the trauma reactions at bay. This can lead to a cycle where reactions to trauma and alcohol, tobacco or other drug use feed off each other.

Trauma is an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to one’s physical safety. Trauma also refers to directly experienced, witnessed or learned about events. So, even if the traumatic event didn’t happen to you, if you heard about a traumatic event that affected someone else, especially someone close to you, you could still feel traumatized.

Traumatic Events Experienced Directly

• Military combat

• Natural or manmade disaster

• Being kidnapped

• Being taken hostage

• Terrorist attack

• Torture

• Concentration camp internee

• Severe auto accidents

• Violent personal assault such as sexual or physical (i.e. mugging), or psychological (i.e. robbery)

• Life threatening illness

• Prisoner of War

Traumatic Events Witnessed

• Violent assault

• Accident

• War

• Disaster

• Unexpected witnessing a dead body or remains

Traumatic Events Experienced or Learned About (Family Member or Close Friend)

• Violent personal assault

• Serious accident

• Serious injury experienced

• Sudden, unexpected death

• Your child has a life-threatening disease

Trauma and Substance Abuse: Why It Is Counter-Productive to Self-Medicate

Using drugs to deal with trauma only provides temporary relief, if any at all; and in fact makes things worse. Rather than calming nerves, alcohol and other drugs can actually increase both anxiety and fears, intensify and exaggerate emotions and long term use can even cause emotional stagnation. Substance abuse to treat trauma often blocks necessary psychological processing and can prevent or delay the natural completion of the grieving process. Drug use often results in a lower functioning capacity resulting in poor choices and poor decisions and even behavioral dysfunction. Substance abuse can disrupt sleep, especially stage four (or deep sleep), and it can increase nightmares and make them more vivid and believable, leading to an even more fragile mental state.

Trauma and Substance Abuse Treatment

The fact that there is a connection between trauma and substance abuse has been known for decades by professionals treating people who experience both trauma and substance abuse.

Clinical studies of patients in substance abuse treatment programs have shown a high correlation with a client history of trauma. Model programs are being developed that seek to treat these both trauma and substance abuse in an integrated fashion.

 

Sources:

http://www.samhsa.gov/

http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/

Jul 15

Women in Recovery

Women in Recovery

Here is a fun fact about women in recovery, Marty Mann, NCADD’s founder, was the first woman to recover from alcoholism in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  As a result, NCADD has always been dedicated to increasing public awareness and support for women struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs. 

Women are the fastest-growing segment for substance abuse in the United States. In fact, according to the Federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, about 2.7 million women in the United States abuse drugs or alcohol. Even more frightening is that the majority who need treatment do not receive it because:

•They are afraid of losing, or being separated from, their families

•They view their substance use as a social activity or habit, rather than an addiction that is disrupting their lives

•They believe that their substance abuse is the outcome of anxiety or depression, treating the mental health issue while ignoring the addiction

•They are afraid or embarrassed to admit they are struggling with addiction, and hide their drug or alcohol use from family and friends

There are special issues that women face in addiction treatment and recovery. The traditional wisdom of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that women progress faster in addiction. Now the research is telling us the “why” and more importantly “what” can be done to assist women in recovery.

Women start using for different reasons, get addicted differently, progress faster, recovery differently and relapse for different issues. Due to shame and stigma, women may be more likely to drink/take pills when alone and hide it from others. Some women have their home as their bar and may have three martini play dates with their friends and their children. Those with stressful careers may use to keep up the image that they can raise three kids, have a high power job and still keep up! With the stimulant drugs some women start using to lose weight. While many women are high functioning and may be able to keep up the appearance of being fine they are unraveling on the inside.

Physiologically women metabolize alcohol and drugs differently than men. Physically one drink for a woman has twice the impact physiologically on a woman that it does on a man. That’s not just about getting drunk, that’s impact to the organs, to the brain. Mixing types of drugs makes it even more damaging. When mixing chemicals one and one is not necessarily two. Women also tend to have more access to prescribers of medications which can make it even more dangerous. Yes, there is physical damage but it may pale in comparison to the emotional and spiritual damage done by addiction. When a woman is addicted it can impact the entire family system – since women are generally the central organizing factors in their network (caregiver to aging parent, parent to children, caregiver of older partner, etc).

Women are complicated! In addition a female’s distinctive physiology, mental health issues, hormonal differences, spiritual concerns and as well as life circumstances may affect their experience in addiction and recovery. Treatment and recovery are most successful when these individualized needs are taken into account. The good news is that recovery is natural for women. Addiction is the unnatural state. The female brain is actually wired for connection! Many women find that the support of 12 Step programs and other support groups are exactly what they need to live a life free of chemicals. Recovery is the most critical part of an addict’s journey and many find that in recovery they have a life beyond their wildest dreams.

 

 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/remarkable-recovery/201203/addiction-and-gender-recovery-women