Many individuals experience trauma during their lifetimes. Although many people exposed to traumatic situations demonstrate few or no lingering symptoms, those who have experienced repeated, chronic or multiple traumas are more likely to exhibit pronounced symptoms and consequences, including substance abuse, mental illness, and health problems.
People of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and economic conditions may experience life-changing trauma. It can affect a person’s functional ability, including sleeping, interacting with others and performing at work, and contribute to self-defeating responses that can increase health risks, such as substance misuse, isolation, anxiety and eating disorders.
What is trauma-based care?
Trauma can affect anyone. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma results from an event, series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being. A traumatic experience can be a single event, a series of events and/or a chronic condition, e.g., childhood neglect or domestic violence. Trauma frequently produces a sense of fear, vulnerability and helplessness.
Addiction treatment specialists who provide trauma-based care understand that many current behaviors and responses are ways of adapting to and coping with past traumatic experiences.
In a recent Vice.com article, Dr. Gabor Maté discussed his views on the current heroin epidemic among young people in North America. Dr. Maté pointed out that heroin is the strongest painkiller available, relieving emotional pain as well as physical suffering. According to Dr. Maté, “Addiction is not the problem. Addiction is the addict’s attempt to solve a problem.”
Searching for the causes of addiction
Dr. Maté states that the cause of the epidemic is based on two factors: a lot of young people are traumatized and abused in childhood, and others are indirectly abused. He believes these groups are not getting their emotional needs met. “Their parents are too busy, too stressed, too distracted, too depressed, too overwhelmed themselves to give them what they need. So children grow up with a sense of emotional lack and emptiness, fear and distress. Heroin partially soothes that pain and that distress.”
After helping many heroin addicts find sobriety, Dr. Maté believes current prevention and recovery methods are failing our youth. He thinks we need to reconsider addiction’s causes and change the way we help addicts.
In other words, Dr. Maté is recommending trauma-based therapy as the most important tool in the treatment of drug addiction.
“At The Discovery House, we offer many drug addiction therapy techniques and programs to help individuals who want to overcome their addiction. Through our therapy sessions, counselors help those in recovery to address their underlying issues and learn to live life without drugs or alcohol,” notes David Dequa, program director at The Discovery House in Los Angeles, California. “These types of therapies help counselors reach residents in ways other methods can’t. Our specialty therapies allow individuals to investigate deeper into their lives and their emotions to heal those areas.”
This holistic view of addiction therapy understands the interrelated nature of emotional, physical, relational and spiritual health. “All of our drug and alcohol addiction therapy sessions are used to help addicts determine where their addiction is stemming from, work through those underlying issues and develop skills to live a sober life,” adds Dequa. “Through our addiction treatment services, residents learn how to manage stress, how to overcome triggers and how to live a normal life without their substance.”
Recovery is possible
Understanding that recovery is possible for everyone regardless of how vulnerable they may appear, The Discovery House, located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, utilizes a variety of treatment programs that allow each client to receive the individualized care they deserve. The pet-friendly Southern California rehab center offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs to help drug addicts and alcoholics achieve and maintain abstinence.
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