DDN December 2022 DDN Dec_2022 | Page 10


A question of


In the field of substance use , working with distress associated with early trauma is a regular feature of helping clients to understand and gain control of their dependence . One of the leading causes of developing substance dependence later in adult life is childhood trauma . A study of individuals being treated for substance use disorder and PTSD found that 77 per cent of the sample had experienced at least one trauma as a child ( Farrugia , et all , 2011 ).

A genuinely trauma-informed approach is vital to any effective treatment system , say Andrew Tye and Kimberley Ward
However , what constitutes ‘ trauma ’ is subjective and varies from one person to the next . It isn ’ t necessarily a specific experience , but more to do with how the individual perceives and experiences the event . Trauma results from an event or multiple events that an individual experiences as emotionally or physically harmful . These experiences can have lasting effects on wellbeing , and some of the most common experiences of childhood trauma include neglect ,
sexual , physical and psychological abuse , loss of a parent or other close family member , witnessing domestic violence , medical traumas or having a parent that used drugs or was mentally ill .
UNPROCESSED TRAUMA How these traumas manifest , and how they affect the individual differs from person to person . As adults we can deal with trauma more effectively , but as children we may lack the frame of reference that we use later in life , which
makes it much harder for children to process trauma . As a result , such experiences are more likely to have long-lasting effects . Unprocessed trauma is stored in the subconscious , where it can have huge effects on how our lives are shaped as we grow older .
As a child , we depend on those around us for protection and support . When that fundamental need is met with the polar-opposite , it often has irrevocable effects that can last for an individual ’ s entire life . Self-medication with substances offers relief or respite from pain and memories associated with these experiences , so substance use may develop as a coping response that can be effective but also problematic in terms of the consequences of substance dependency .
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