The Connection Between Addiction and Trauma

Editorial Team

Springboard Recovery was born from the passion and personal experience of its founders. We understand the real-world challenges of early recovery and are here to help and we are passionate about helping our clients lead balanced, healthy, and fulfilling lives.


Is There a Connection Between Addiction and Trauma?

Sexual violence, trauma, and substance abuse are common issues throughout the United States. The number of people affected by these issues is staggering, although many do not get the treatment they need. How are addiction and trauma related? What can be done to better address these complex issues? The following information was designed to go deeper into the connection between these serious problems affecting millions.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

Recent statistics indicate that well over 23 million people throughout the country have issues with some type of addiction. However, only about 11% of those in need of help actually get the treatment they require to overcome their issue. Alcoholism is probably the most common form of addiction that Americans deal with today. Because alcohol is a legal substance, the true number of those facing addictions to alcohol can be difficult to determine. It’s estimated that over 16 million Americans face alcohol addiction, and as many as 2.5 million are dependent on other illegal substances as well. Addiction to illegal substances continues to be on the rise. These numbers speak to the true depth of the issue with substance abuse in all its various forms.

Trauma and Sexual Violence

Trauma is described as an event or series of events that result in mental, physical, emotional, or social harm to the individual affected. In many cases, this harm continues over a period of months or even years. The following statistics indicate the severity of the issue of trauma in the United States.

  • Sexual abuse affects as many as 25% of females in the US
  • Domestic violence affects up to 44% of women in the US
  • Over 18% of Veterans deal with the trauma of PTSD
  • Other types of trauma, such as living through a natural disaster, affect millions

While some people face traumatic events seemingly unscathed, for many trauma victims this simply is not the case. The heavy burden of continuing to deal with trauma on a daily basis can wreak havoc on their health, relationships, and careers. How does trauma affect the likelihood that a person will develop substance abuse issues?

The Connection Between Addiction and Trauma

Society is becoming much more aware and open to discussing the issues of trauma, sexual violence, and substance abuse. However, these topics are still being discussed separately for the most part. By discussing these issues as if they are two totally separate problems, we fail to see the degree to which they actually interconnect.

The fact of the matter is that addiction and trauma are closely related. In fact, according to recent statistics, the following is true of those suffering from acts of sexual violence:

  • Those who have faced sexual assault are 3.4 times more likely to abuse marijuana
  • Those facing sexual assault are six times more likely to begin using cocaine
  • Those who have faced sexual assault are ten times more likely to abuse other drugs

While continued education about preventing sexual assault and preventing substance abuse occur on a regular basis, the two topics are not identified as being related issues. Many people who have dealt with various forms of trauma resort to drug use as a coping mechanism for the mental anguish they experience.

Treating Addiction as it Relates to Trauma

When most people enter treatment facilities to address issues with addiction, they don’t necessarily receive instruction on getting to the bottom of what made them begin to use addictive substances. The main goal of most drug and alcohol treatment centers is to simply deal with the physical addiction and to help reduce the likelihood of relapse in the future.

Treatment options would likely be much more successful if clients were able to get a firm grasp on their reason for resorting to drug or alcohol use. While it may seem like a matter of common sense to connect the two issues, many people who have been through trauma tend to compartmentalize the painful memories of their experiences. This is a normal method of coping with this type of ongoing pain, but it doesn’t help the individual to deal with the traumatic event and get to the bottom of the real reason behind their addiction. By doing so, they stand a much better chance at successfully overcoming their addiction and preventing future relapses into drug abuse.

While they are often treated as entirely unrelated occurrences, statistics clearly show that those affected by various types of trauma are at an increased risk for developing addictions to harmful substances. It is important that treatment programs focus on the connection between trauma and addiction in order to provide improved treatment outcomes for those dealing with these interrelated and complex issues.

SpringBoard Recovery commits to helping clients to find the underlying issues that have impacted them and ultimately contributed to their dependency on drugs and alcohol. If you or a loved one are ready to get sober, please contact an admissions counselor today.


  1. Medical News Today:
  2. Medical News Today:
  3. Healthline:
  4. Healthline:
  5. HelpGuide:
  6. US National library of Medicine:
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse:
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse:
  9. American Psychiatric Association:
  10. US National Library of Medicine:

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OCTOBER 7, 2017

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.

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