The Interplay Between LGBTQ+ and Addiction: A Journey Towards Empathy and Support

In the vibrant tapestry of human diversity, the LGBTQ+ community represents a multitude of identities and experiences. As we celebrate Pride Month, it is crucial to recognize and understand the challenges faced by this community, particularly the link between LGBTQ+ individuals and addiction. This article aims to shed light on this complex issue, fostering empathy, raising awareness, and providing a foundation for support. By acknowledging these struggles and promoting inclusivity, we can create a safer and more inclusive society for all.

The Intersection of LGBTQ+ Identity and Addiction

LGBTQ+ individuals often face unique stressors and discrimination, which can contribute to higher rates of addiction. The journey of self-discovery, the process of coming out, and societal prejudice can lead to emotional distress and isolation. These factors, combined with the lack of acceptance from family, friends, and communities, can drive some individuals to turn to substances as a means of coping.

Mental Health Disparities and Substance Use

  1. Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders: LGBTQ+ individuals experience disproportionately higher rates of mental health disorders compared to the general population. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation are among the challenges faced. Substance use can often serve as a self-medication method, temporarily alleviating emotional pain or providing an escape from daily struggles.
  2. Minority Stress: The concept of minority stress, coined by psychologist Ilan Meyer, highlights the chronic stress experienced by marginalized groups due to societal discrimination and prejudice. LGBTQ+ individuals may face rejection, bullying, and harassment, leading to internalized homophobia or transphobia. This ongoing stress contributes to an increased risk of developing addictive behaviors.
  3. Barriers to Mental Health Services: The stigma surrounding mental health within the LGBTQ+ community can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need. Fear of judgment, discrimination, or a lack of culturally competent care may discourage individuals from accessing appropriate support systems. This further perpetuates the cycle of substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

Nurturing Supportive Environments

  1. Cultivating Acceptance: Creating inclusive communities and fostering acceptance within families, schools, and workplaces is crucial. Encouraging open dialogue, promoting education about LGBTQ+ identities, and dismantling stereotypes can help reduce the stigma associated with being LGBTQ+. Acceptance plays a pivotal role in preventing substance abuse and supporting those in recovery.
  2. Accessible Mental Health Services: It is imperative to ensure that mental health services are easily accessible and culturally competent for LGBTQ+ individuals. Healthcare professionals and therapists should undergo training to develop an understanding of the unique challenges faced by this community. Creating safe spaces for open and honest conversations can encourage individuals to seek the help they deserve.
  3. Peer Support and Community Organizations: LGBTQ+-specific support groups and community organizations can provide a sense of belonging, understanding, and empowerment. Connecting with peers who share similar experiences can help combat feelings of isolation and provide invaluable support during recovery journeys.

As we celebrate Pride Month, let us remember that the LGBTQ+ community is not immune to the challenges of addiction. By acknowledging the interplay between LGBTQ+ identity and substance abuse, we can work towards fostering empathy, raising awareness, and creating supportive environments. Let us be champions of inclusivity, working together to dismantle stigma and provide the necessary resources for mental health support. By doing so, we can ensure that every individual within the LGBTQ+ community feels seen, heard, and valued and that no one feels the need to turn to substances as a means of coping.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please reach out to us. Our trained professionals are here to provide a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ+ teens to explore their emotions, seek guidance, and receive the support they need. Remember, you are not alone, and asking for help is a sign of strength. Together, let us pledge to be advocates for change. Educate yourself, support LGBTQ+ organizations, and reach out to those who may be struggling

Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety?

When you first consider the question “does alcohol cause anxiety,” the most obvious answer might be no. Many people rely on alcohol to cope with anxiety because of its relaxing effects.

There’s more to it than that, however. Alcohol and anxiety have complex relationships, and alcohol-induced anxiety is a real problem for many people. Someone with a history of substance abuse may be more susceptible to developing any mental disorder. 

The Effects of Anxiety

Anxiety is something that people often talk about in terms of diagnosing themselves when they’re experiencing something distressing for them. Along with being a term often casually thrown around, it’s also a very real and potentially debilitating disorder. Anxiety has diagnostic criteria like other medical conditions and mental health conditions. 

An anxiety disorder isn’t the same as occasionally experiencing normal feelings of anxiety in stressful situations. People with anxiety disorders affect their life in major ways and impair their functionality.

Types of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder: When someone struggles with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), they have a constant, ongoing level of stress about various things in their life that’s out of proportion to the actual situation. Worries and anxiety symptoms may be broad and include money, health, relationships, and other things.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Also known as social phobia, it’s more than being shy when dealing with social anxiety disorder. You might have physical symptoms or avoid normal daily activities because of your fear of being around others with diagnosable social anxiety disorder. 
  • Panic disorder: This mental disorder leads to significant, sudden, and unexpected physical symptoms like a pounding heart, sweating, choking, shortness of breath, and an impending sense of doom. For some people, severe panic attacks can feel like a heart attack.

Other anxiety disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Using Alcohol to Cope with Anxiety

One relatively common thing is turning to substances to cope with the symptoms of a mental disorder like anxiety. People use alcohol to reduce stress and unwind. In the short term, alcohol is a depressant and sedative that slows your central nervous system.

Initially, drinking it can help reduce your anxiety, help you feel generally relaxed, and even give you a mood boost. Some of the effects of alcohol can be similar to certain anti-anxiety medications.

The relaxation you feel when you first drink may be due to your blood alcohol content rising. At first, you feel good as your BAC levels go up. Then, as those levels fall, you can feel depressed or more anxious than before. This can quickly lead to a vicious cycle culminating in potential alcohol addiction. 

Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety?

When you drink, it changes your brain neurotransmitters, including your levels of serotonin. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, those effects can worsen symptoms in people with anxiety disorders or lead to alcohol-induced anxiety when maybe you didn’t have it before. 

Long-term consequences of heavy drinking and alcohol abuse can include new or worsening mental health problems, including alcohol-induced or more intense anxiety. 

People with an alcohol use disorder, according to research, have difficulties recovering from traumatic events. This difficulty likely stems from the changes in brain activity that occur because of the alcohol itself.

Long-term alcohol abuse can put you at greater risk of anxiety disorders in some cases, among other negative consequences. 

There’s another potential relationship between excessive drinking and anxiety to be aware of too.

High anxiety levels are a symptom of alcohol withdrawal related to long-term excessive alcohol consumption. If you’ve been regularly consuming large amounts of alcohol and suddenly stop, you may have alcohol withdrawal-induced anxiety. Other withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations, sweating, vomiting, seizures, and increased anxiety levels.

does alcohol cause anxiety

Hangover Anxiety

Even if you aren’t necessarily a regular or heavy drinker, alcohol-induced anxiety can occur in other ways. Namely, there’s the concept of so-called “hangxiety.”

When you have the symptoms of a hangover, you might have physical and psychological symptoms similar to mental health conditions, including anxiety.

There are likely multiple reasons for increased anxiety-like behaviors and feelings when you have a hangover.

One could be a social phobia. When you drink, it can help you feel more socially relaxed. Then, your social phobia symptoms can return once those effects wear off. You can feel worse when your physical hangover symptoms are paired with worsening social anxiety.

You might also feel more intense social phobia because you did things when drinking that embarrass you or you wouldn’t normally do. 

Another reason is that your body attempts to detox. If you drink heavily the night before, your body has to process that alcohol to remove it from your body. The detox period is like mild withdrawal and can include anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness.

Other reasons that anxiety can feel worse during a hangover include:

  • Emotional withdrawal can occur when your endorphins, natural feel-good hormones, are coming down after drinking. Drinking can make them rise at first, but then they naturally decrease, leading to a potentially low mood, emotional disturbances, and anxiety. Some of the symptoms can be similar to depressive disorders. 
  • Dehydration makes you urinate more than usual, and you’re probably not focusing as much on staying hydrated as you should. This can cause anxiety along with other mood changes.
  • Folic acid deficiency can occur because of drinking, and low levels of the nutrient are associated with anxiety and depression.
  • Certain medicines can interact negatively with alcohol increasing feelings of anxiety.
  • When you drink, you may not get enough sleep or have poor sleep quality, which can cause anxiety and other mood changes.

Substance Abuse and Anxiety: Co-Occurring Disorders

Not everyone who drinks and experiences alcohol-induced anxiety has a co-occurring mental disorder, but some people do.

There are bidirectional relationships between substances and a mental disorder. 

  • As discussed above, someone might try to self-medicate their anxiety symptoms with problematic drinking. 
  • That can worsen their anxiety disorder and contribute to an alcohol use disorder or addictive behaviors. 
  • There’s also evidence that alcohol abuse can contribute to developing a mental health disorder.
  • The same brain areas tend to be affected by both substance use disorders and mental health disorders.
  • When someone has a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, it’s a co-occurring disorder.
  • Co-occurring disorders need unique treatment. You can treat one without the other because the outcomes aren’t likely favorable. For example, if you treat someone’s alcoholism and not their anxiety disorder, they’re more likely to relapse than someone without comorbid anxiety. 

Co-occurring disorder treatment is specialized and holistic so that both problems are dealt with individually and in the context of one another. If someone receives proper treatment for an anxiety disorder, they’re less likely to return to the use of alcohol to self-medicate.

Substance Abuse Treatment in the SF Bay Area

Effective treatments for co-occurring anxiety in alcohol-dependent patients usually include behavioral therapy, medication, and ongoing participation in something like a 12-step therapy such as Alcoholics Anonymous. According to research in the American Journal of Psychiatry, treatment of anxiety disorders might occur in a group or individual setting. 

If you’d like to learn about treatment for substance use disorder, reach out to Silicon Valley Recovery today at 408-547-4089. Our team can provide compassionate but informative answers about treating alcoholism and drug abuse. 

Alcohol Abuse and ADHD

There are complex relationships that can occur between alcohol and ADHD; sometimes, a person might be more prone to abuse alcohol because of these coexisting conditions. In other cases, an individual might develop a polydrug substance abuse disorder because of a combination of medication and alcohol. We talk in more detail below about these relationships between ADHD and alcohol abuse.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood, often first diagnosed when someone is a child. Then, the symptoms tend to continue into adulthood. A child with an attention disorder can experience problems controlling impulsive behaviors and paying attention, or they may be overly active.

It’s normal for kids to have difficulty focusing or behaving appropriately occasionally, but with ADHD, the child doesn’t grow out of the behavior. The symptoms are ongoing, can be severe, and cause problems in functionality at home, school, and in relationships. Core symptoms in a child might include:

  • Daydreaming frequently
  • Forgetfulness
  • Misplacing items often
  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Excessive talking
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Having a hard time resisting temptation
  • Inhibitory control 
  • Impulse control issues 
  • The trouble with taking turns
  • Problems getting along with others

There are three types of attention deficit disorders; they are based on the particular attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms someone experiences. 

  • Predominantly inattentive presentation: In this situation, it’s hard for someone to finish tasks, pay attention to details, or follow instructions. Someone with a diagnosis of this type of ADHD might be easily distracted or forgetful of the details of daily routines.
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation: In this type of ADHD, someone could talk or fidget a lot, have a hard time sitting still, and be restless or behave impulsively.
  • Combined presentation: Symptoms of this type will usually include symptoms of the above types equally.

Researchers are studying the risk factors and potential causes of this disorder, which may help reduce the risk of someone developing it in the future. The causes aren’t known, but research, as it stands currently, shows genetics are a big part of it.

Scientists are also looking at risk factors such as premature delivery and low birth weight, brain injury, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, and exposure to environmental toxins or risks during pregnancy.

ADHD Medications

People with this mental health condition usually receive a combination of treatments—most often, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and medication. Effective treatment plans can look different for everyone. 

Broadly, medications can fall into two categories—stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants are the first-line treatment, and this category includes amphetamines and methylphenidate.

Non-stimulant medication is reserved for patients who don’t benefit from stimulant medications or don’t tolerate them well. Non-stimulants include atomoxetine, clonidine, and guanfacine.

Finding the right medication and dose, as well as other treatment options, can take time and is often reliant on trial and error working closely with a treatment provider. 

The most frequently prescribed ADHD medications include Adderall XR, Concerta, Dexedrine, Evekeo, and Focalin XR. Other options include Ritalin, Straterra, and Vyvanse.

Medications tend to work best when combined with behavioral treatments like cognitive therapy. 

Alcohol and ADHD

Is there a link between ADHD and alcoholism?

Researchers do believe there are associations between ADHD and alcohol abuse. This doesn’t mean everyone with attention disorders will abuse alcohol, but having this mental health condition can increase the risk. 

ADHD is considered a risk factor for alcohol abuse but not a cause, because it can increase the risk of abusing or developing an addiction to other substances, such as stimulants or depressants. This is true of other mental disorders and alcohol’s effects. 

The links between alcohol and ADHD include:

  • In a twin study in 2018, more severe cases during childhood was associated with earlier use of alcohol and more frequent or heavier use.
  • Based on a 2015 study, people with ADHD are more likely to engage in binge drinking in early adulthood.
  • In a study conducted in 2009, participants were more likely to show increased sensitivity to alcoholic beverages and greater impairment.
  • Alcohol impairment is thought to make some symptoms of ADHD more severe. For example, people who drink and have the condition could have more problems focusing and higher levels of impulsiveness. Long-term alcohol use can cause problems with decision-making, cognition, memory, and speech, and the effects could make the symptoms worse.
  • Childhood ADHD, according to a systematic review in 2011, increases the risk of alcohol use later in life. 

When someone has ADHD, they may be at a higher risk of abusing alcohol because they’re attempting to self-medicate. Self-medication is one reason people with all types of mental health disorders will have higher rates of substance abuse.

If you have ADHD symptoms and attempt to deal with them on your own with drug abuse or alcohol, it will end up worsening the problem. This includes abusing illicit drugs or prescription drugs. 

There are also theories that when you have a mental health disorder, including ADHD, it affects the same areas of your brain as addiction, and there may be similar susceptibilities.

Alcohol, Depression, and ADHD

There are complex relationships between the use of alcohol, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders like depression. None of the three cause each other, but they are often related.

  • People with ADHD are more likely to both experience depression and use alcohol, alcohol use is associated with depression.
  • People with ADHD, according to a study in 2019, may be at a higher risk for simultaneous heavy drinking and depression.
  • Alcohol affects brain chemistry, and worsening symptoms lead to a higher risk of depression.
  • Getting involved in a cycle of alcohol abuse can be difficult to break out of. For example, after you drink heavily, you could wake up feeling depressed, guilty or anxious. You could be restless or have a harder time than normal focusing. Then, you might drink to cope with whatever you’re experiencing.

The Risk for Substance Use and ADHD

Alcohol isn’t the only substance people with ADHD abuse. In a 2017 review, researchers found ADHD is a risk factor for other types of substance abuse and dependence.

The link is likely related to common symptoms like impulsivity, hyperactivity, and problems with emotional function. These three symptoms also play a role in substance use, so someone with ADHD is at a higher risk of addiction.

Someone who is diagnosed with ADHD and a substance use disorder needs specialized treatment.

What Happens When You Take ADHD Medicine and Alcohol?

Combining your ADHD medication with alcohol can heighten the effects of both and put you at risk of serious consequences and complications. The interactions between medication and alcohol depend on the particular type of medicine.

When someone uses stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin, most commonly prescribed, they increase the activity of the central nervous system. Alcohol, by contrast, decreases CNS activity. Rather than one canceling out the effects of the other, alcohol changes how your body processes your ADHD medication.

This can lead to symptoms like high blood pressure, chest pain, irregular heartbeats, a racing heart rate, and problems sleeping.

Using ADHD medication and alcohol together can also cause a greater risk of overdose and alcohol poisoning. Over time, taking both substances regularly and at the same time puts you at more of a risk of a stroke or heart attack.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment in the San Francisco Bay Area

While there are links between the abuse of alcohol and ADHD, there are steps you can take to avoid this situation. There are also treatment programs available that can consider your unique needs and co-occurring disorders. Reach out to learn more, whether you’re struggling with alcohol-related problems, illegal drugs, or co-occurring mental health issues. 

To learn more about treatment programs available to you, contact the Silicon Valley Recovery team by calling 408-547-4089.

Addiction and Eating Disorders: Co-Occurring Treatment

Addiction and eating disorders are considered co-occurring disorders. In addition, a co-occurring disorder occurs along with the addiction. The co-occurring disorder can appear before, simultaneously, or after the addiction. We often use the term dual diagnosis interchangeably with co-occurring disorders.

If someone is struggling with a diagnosis of both addiction and an eating disorder, they need specialized treatment. Dual diagnosis treatment considers the symptoms, effects, and underlying causes of both conditions at the same time. That’s important for someone to have positive outcomes in their recovery.

Along with eating disorders and substance addictions, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety often co-occur with drug or alcohol abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, an estimated eight million Americans have co-occurring disorders.

Someone diagnosed with a mental health disorder is twice as likely to develop an addiction to substances and vice versa.

Understanding Eating Disorders

Eating disorders aren’t simply about food and body weight. They’re complex mental health disorders that require effective psychological treatment to manage. 

The disorders are defined in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, also known as the DSM-5.

  • In the United States, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men currently have an eating disorder.
  • This range of psychological conditions can lead to unhealthy eating habits, often with obsessions over food, weight, body shape, and sometimes excessive exercise. 
  • Severe eating disorders can lead to serious physical health complications or death if untreated.
  • While anyone can experience an eating disorder, these mental health conditions are common in adolescent girls and young women.

Eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa—someone with anorexia may think they’re overweight and have a distorted body image, even if they’re extremely underweight. Anorexia symptoms include calorie restriction, avoiding certain types of food, and constant weight monitoring. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms also frequently occur in people with anorexia nervosa. The mortality rate can be high without appropriate treatment for anorexia nervosa. 
  • Bulimia nervosa—this eating disorder includes recurrent episodes of eating very large amounts of food in a short period of time with a lack of control and then purging to try and get rid of the discomfort and make up for the calories consumed. People with bulimia nervosa might make themselves throw up after a period of binging. Purging is one of the possible compensatory behaviors someone might engage in. 
  • Binge eating disorder—symptoms are similar to bulimia or the anorexia subtype relating to binging. Someone with a binge eating disorder will feel a loss of control and eat large amounts of food in short periods of time. People with binge eating disorder don’t purge following binge episodes. 

There are other eating disorders, such as pica, restrictive food intake disorder, and rumination disorder. The three above are most common and are most often associated with substance use disorders. These disorders have a major impact on quality of life and physical health. 

Factors that could raise the risk of developing disordered eating include a family history of these disorders or other mental health issues, trauma, or dieting history. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if you have a personal history of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anxiety, these co-occurring conditions can increase the risk of an eating disorder. 

General signs of an eating disorder can include:

  • Not being able to stop destructive behavioral symptoms even when trying
  • Being obsessively preoccupied with food
  • Not being a healthy weight or able to maintain a normal weight 
  • Compulsive exercise 
  • Dental problems like worn tooth enamel 
  • Changes in menstrual period 
  • Extremely picky eating 
  • Body image dissatisfaction or body image issues
  • Intense cravings
  • Strict rituals surrounding dieting or food in daily life 
  • Isolation to hide abnormal eating patterns
Eating Disorder

The Relationship Between Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse

When someone has a substance abuse disorder, they lose control of their use of drugs or alcohol. A person may develop both an addiction and a physical dependence.

  • When you’re addicted to a substance, your brain’s rewards centers experience activation when you use it. 
  • Your brain is hardwired to continue seeking things that bring pleasure, which drugs do.
  • Over time, these effects lead to compulsive substance use that you can no longer control. 
  • You may have cravings and a preoccupation with getting and using more of the substance.
  • Physical dependence occurs as your body develops a tolerance. You need more and more of whatever the substance is to feel high or get the effects you’re seeking. Your body changes how it makes certain brain chemicals in response to drug or alcohol exposure. If you were to stop using something you depend on, you would experience withdrawal symptoms.

Many factors can increase the risk of becoming addicted to something, and a lot of these factors are similar to the risk factors for eating disorders.

  • Environment and social factors play a role. 
  • A history of trauma or physical or sexual abuse can raise the risk of eating disorders and addiction.
  • Mental health is also relevant in both. If you have an untreated mental health disorder, you’re more at risk of conditions like anorexia and addiction.
  • Using drugs or alcohol can be a coping mechanism or a way to deal with your feelings when you struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very isolating, and substances can become an escape.

There are other ways the two can be connected as well. Some people develop addictions stemming from the desire to lose weight. If you’re anorexic, you could also use stimulants like cocaine or prescription amphetamines to reduce your appetite and lose weight, which then contributes to addiction.

Eating Disorder Treatment

Like the contributing risk factors are similar for eating disorders and addiction, so are the treatment approaches.

Eating disorders can be managed and treated with psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy where you work with a counselor or other mental health professional. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an example of an evidence-backed approach to treating eating disorders. CBT is also very often part of addiction treatment.

When you participate in CBT, you start to understand your distorted thinking patterns driving your emotions and behaviors, so you can then change them.

Medications and medical care may be part of a treatment plan, particularly when someone with an eating disorder also has a mental disorder like depression or anxiety disorders. 

Nutrition counseling can help with managing eating disorder symptoms, and it can also help promote recovery from addiction. Nutritional counseling following addiction can help return your body to a sense of balance and restore what was lost in terms of vitamins and nutrients. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

If you’re seeking help for multiple conditions, one of which is an addiction, dual diagnosis treatment is the best type of program option. An intensive inpatient residential treatment program can be ideal. An inpatient treatment center provides a secure, safe and stable environment which is important in the early days of your recovery.

A dual diagnosis inpatient care plan will work to untangle the complex relationships between your disorders.

Often, dual diagnosis treatment is also trauma-informed since it’s such a common element of the background of many people with co-occurring disorders

There are different levels of care available, depending on the symptoms you experience and your needs regarding both addiction and identifying eating disorder solutions. Family therapy might also be part of a treatment plan because of the role environmental factors can play in eating disorder behaviors and addiction. 

If you’d like to learn about dual diagnosis treatment options, the Silicon Valley Recovery team can answer questions if you call us at 408-547-4089. We can speak confidentially and in a way that you’re comfortable with, wherever you are in your journey or road to recovery. 

Exploring Childhood Trauma and Addiction

There is increasing research linking trauma in a person’s childhood to the formation of addiction either in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are strongly correlated to addiction in older adulthood and can manifest earlier in that person’s life into childhood addiction. Exposure to trauma can impact childhood and adolescence development and evolve into addiction at an older age.

Substance abuse exists as a way to self-medicate. The person who is turning to the addiction is doing so in some way to relieve feelings of distress and masked or numb, deep pain.

Maladaptive coping mechanisms can be formed and depend upon environmental and genetic conditions in the person’s life. When a child experiences 1 to 4 tiers of adverse childhood experience, like psychological abuse and neglect, and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and neglect, the desire to escape emotional pain and pressure can trigger the formation of addiction, whether to alcohol or drug use, or both.

These occur most commonly in vulnerable, marginalized populations, where childhood addiction is co-originating with childhood traumatic events and can ensue for a prolonged period or go untreated by childhood trauma therapists. One of the best ways to treat the child or adult suffering from this dynamic is to take a skilled childhood trauma therapist who uses trauma-informed care, focused on attaining sobriety and then addressing their past and the origin of their issues.

Childhood Addiction as an Adolescent 

There is a highly correlated risk for adult substance abuse when a child is exposed and starts to use alcohol and other drugs. Drug use and childhood addiction in adolescents are linked to chronic problems in this population. Certain signs of childhood addiction and adolescent drug use are:

  • Underachievement
  • Poor academic performance
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Depression

Drug use during adolescence can lead to adverse effects in the family environment. Some of those effects include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor school performance
  • Parental rejection and disapproval
  • Alienation and peer pressure
  • Family dysfunction
  • Abuse and divorce

Early use in life makes an enduring impact and most likely will lead to future use in adulthood. With limited family and social support, childhood addiction may start sooner when a child is helpless to control their conditions. The early employment of therapy with a childhood trauma therapist can possibly aid in breaking this intergenerational curse of addiction within the family line.

Origins of Childhood Addiction

Factors that contribute to childhood trauma and illicit drug use in adulthood are:

  • Family dysfunction
  • Childhood aggression
  • Peer pressure
  • Genetics
  • Hyperactivity in childhood
  • Traumatic events or ACEs

Childhood trauma, and subsequent adulthood addiction, can develop from an insecure attachment with a primary caregiver. Parental rejection can contribute to the child forming maladaptive patterns if they exhibit a lack of compliance in the household, high-risk behavior, and starts to display early onset of disorders like Conduct Disorder, ADHD, and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. These are especially pernicious as the child exhibits a lack of self-control, leading to later drug abuse.

Early treatment is key, especially with a gifted, trauma-informed childhood addiction therapist and supportive network. Even early treatment of ADHD and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has indicated a lower threat of adult drug use. Exploring that child/adult’s attachment to a caregiver and whether there was alcohol abuse with parents can significantly reduce the pressure and stress after an ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience). A trauma-focused treatment with a childhood trauma therapist can help the person develop resilience and skills that allow them to cope and adapt to adverse situations. 

Child abuse is a highly significant factor in substance use in adolescence and future adulthood. Abuse and neglect in the home pose several factors that lead to high-risk drug abuse. These factors affecting the young person can be:

  • Anger as a pervasive state
  • Stress
  • Resentment of parents
  • Family drug use
  • Low parental monitoring
  • Socioeconomic disadvantage
  • Lack of knowledge of risks
  • Certain behavioral triggers

Early detection has found that addictions to alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and marijuana are most prevalent.

Childhood Trauma

Childhood Brain Development

How a child’s brain develops is linked with childhood experiences and early environmental conditions, biology, and encounters of a traumatic type that can all be factors for predicting a child’s susceptibility to developing an addiction.

In the occurrence of an ACE, whether from abuse, neglect, or unexpected events, trauma shapes a child’s brain. Neural pathways develop to either benefit or work against the brain’s ability to cope or be resilient. It is possible that in the occurrence and repeated exposure to traumatic events, the child, and then the adult, will run to self-medicating and substance use to cope with the pain and overwhelm.

Experiences can affect brain development, even altering the normal chemical balance. In extreme conditions that adversely affect abnormal brain development, research has shown that addiction directly correlates.

Because of prolonged exposure to maltreatment in the earlier years, high degrees of stress can be felt and lead to pressures that, over the long run, can lead to substance use as a way to relieve it. The temporary and short-lived escape drug use also promotes more mounting stress, as added pressures accumulate because of the increasing consequences of drug abuse that continue to alter the brain.

Kaiser Permanente conducted a study, which showed that an encounter with up to 4 traumatic events as a child can increase the likelihood that the child can become an alcoholic. The study also shows that traumatic events led to obesity in 60% of that population, and made them even more susceptible to drug use.

The Importance of Treatment

Addiction develops and morphs into other forms of compulsive behavior, like food addiction, sexual promiscuity, and video game addiction. When trauma is buried, numbed, or forgotten over the years, we can find the attempt to manage the often unrelenting pressures of stress to engage adults in drug and alcohol use, and without trauma-informed treatment, the inherited generational curse has a chance to continue. 

The trauma has to be addressed in treating addiction, as well as the family dynamic. Childhood trauma therapists who specialize in trauma-focused care, need to be addressing the illicit drug dependence first, then address the co-occurring underlying issues that originated in those earlier years.

If you, or someone you love, are struggling with addiction, call 408-547-4089 and talk to a care coordinator at Silicon Valley Recovery to discuss substance abuse treatment program options in the San Francisco Bay Area.