Trauma and Addiction

At Healing Pines, our main focus is on addiction and recovery. However, we also recognize that there is a lot more to addiction and recovery than just focusing on the substance abuse. One of our other main focuses is trauma and the role it plays both in active addiction, and also in learning to live a life of recovery.  

Trauma is one of the major contributing factors to developing an addiction or substance use disorder. In fact, more than half of individuals in treatment for a substance use disorder report having a history of trauma. The APA (American Psychological Association) has defined trauma as “an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, 

Trauma and Addiction

strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives,” (American Psychological Association, 2013). Some people who experience trauma develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is characterized by either experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event and then experiencing symptoms related to that event including nightmares, flashbacks, and severe anxiety that cause significant impairment to their lives (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Some may even experience suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation, contact the Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK). If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 immediately.

Other stressors and events in life can also have a negative impact on both addiction and trauma. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has led to a substantial increase in symptoms of both addiction and mental health issues, including PTSD. The pandemic, as well as related stressors and issues, have increased substance use, abuse, addiction, and relapse. The CDC has even estimated that in 2020, the US had record numbers of drug-related deaths. There have also been significant increases in other addictions such as food, gaming, and gambling (Avena et al., 2021).

When it comes to treatment, research shows that the most effective course is treating the addiction and the trauma at the same time, rather than addressing them separately. This is especially important because trauma, if left untreated, greatly increases the likelihood of relapse (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014). Thankfully, there are several types of evidence-based treatments to help with both addiction and trauma simultaneously. These treatment models include EMDR, CBT, and Seeking Safety. These models and more are part of the Healing Pines program. If you feel you need help with substance abuse and trauma issues, give us a call and we will be happy to help walk you through our program and help you start living the life you want. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

American Psychological Association. (2013, August 15). Recovering emotionally from disaster.

Avena NM, Simkus J, Lewandowski A, Gold MS and Potenza MN (2021) Substance Use Disorders and Behavioral Addictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic and COVID-19-Related Restrictions. Front. Psychiatry 12:653674.doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.653674

Berenz CSF. Treatment of co-occurring posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders | SpringerLink. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2012;14:469–77.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma. Available from:

Recent Posts