Dr. Cali Estes - The Addictions Academy ®

Trauma Is the Root Cause of Addiction

Trauma is the root cause of addiction

Trauma Is the Root Cause of Addiction

While some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing addiction, this is not the root cause. Just because someone’s parents drank alcohol is not a reason for them to develop their alcoholism. Suppose there was chaos in the home because the parents were drinking all the time, and the child was exposed to a toxic or violent environment. In that case, that is more likely what led to the addiction.

When children grow up in toxic environments, it is often traumatic. Children who don’t receive the care or love they need can develop a trauma response. Unresolved trauma may be what leads to addiction later in life. Let’s take a closer look at what trauma is, how it can lead to addiction, and how healing trauma helps people recover from addiction.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is the physiological response to traumatic events that happen to someone. Trauma can happen to anyone at any age. However, when children experience trauma, they tend to be less equipped to handle it.

Trauma affecting children or young adults can include big “T” and little “t” trauma. However, some events may affect others more than others, so there’s no huge difference between the two. In fact, what’s a big “T” for one may not be a big “T” for another. However, some big “T” traumas include:

  • Violence
  • Car accidents or other accidents
  • Rape
  • Natural disasters
  • Death of a parent
  • Military combat
  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Having addiction or mental health issues in the family
  • Toxic relationships


Little “t” traumas include:

  • Going through a breakup or a divorce
  • Loss of a pet or close friend
  • Sudden relocation
  • Bullying or loss of friend groups
  • Money issues


This list is not exhaustive by any means. What some people view as a traumatic experience can vary greatly. These are simply some common traumatic events that can lead to a trauma response.


How Addiction Is a Symptom of Trauma

Addiction is a coping mechanism for people who have had a traumatic event that they didn’t properly heal. Often people don’t speak enough to children or adults when bad things happen. So instead of talking and processing what happened, people learn to escape and disengage from reality.

Addiction is also an escape. It begins with a substance that takes the pain away and feels good. The chemical response in the brain causes the person to feel better, and therefore, the pattern becomes repeated. Once physically dependent, it can be hard to break away from addiction and heal until the trauma is healed.

Heal the Trauma and Recover From Addiction

When people have an addiction and want to get help, they need to detox in a safe environment. But then, what else does a person need to do once the substances are removed from their body?  People must learn how to heal any unresolved trauma, or the likelihood of a relapse is possible as soon as they face any stressful event in the future.

Coaches and therapists who are educated about trauma can offer people with an addiction a road to recovery. Too often, treatment facilities will get the drugs out of the body, give a person some medications for mental health conditions, and send them on their way. This is not always the answer for everyone.

Recovery from the unhealed trauma will help a person get back to their authentic self. Once they learn to go inside by practicing self-care and other healing methods, the chances of returning to substance use are very low.

You Can Become a Trauma Coach

Trauma-informed addiction care is growing rapidly. If you are interested in helping people who suffer from addiction heal, you may want to become a trauma coach. As a trauma coach, you can help people overcome their substance use disorder by facing their trauma head-on and giving them the tools to heal. Our trauma coach certification can put you on the path to helping people heal unresolved trauma. Reach out today to learn more about our course.

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