Understanding Generational Trauma and Its Link to Addiction 

trauma addiction treatment

When it comes to addiction treatment, they say, the question isn't, "What did you do?" The real question is, "What happened to you?" So many of us are awash in shame and humiliation by the time we decide to get clean and sober. We're so focused on the mistakes we've made while drinking and using that it can be easy to forget the deep emotional scars that fueled it all. In reality, traumatic experiences can leave deep psychological wounds that often lead to substance abuse – or worsen it. In some cases, you might even experience generational trauma (or intergenerational trauma), which is trauma that is passed down for generations. Could something that happened to your grandmother really have something to do with your drinking? More and more, the science suggests that this is possible, and that it's crucial to understand generational trauma and its link to addiction for recovery to be possible.

What is Generational Trauma?

Whether as public as mass genocide or as personal as sexual assault, trauma leaves scars that don't always stop hurting when you die. The effects of trauma can linger for generations, impacting mental health, physical health, and relationships across the centuries. It's only recently that trauma has been a respected and accepted field of study in the medical world. Generational trauma, therefore, is even more of a new territory. Yet, early research suggests that generational trauma and addiction could be linked.

The emerging field of epigenetics suggests that experiences can fundamentally alter your DNA in ways that are then passed down to your offspring. In some cases, trauma can alter the basic functions of the child's nervous system. 

More generally, parents with trauma often impact their children in other, more obvious ways. For example, parents who have experienced trauma may be less able to provide emotional support and stability for their children, which can impact their children's mental and physical health. Or, a parent who has experienced trauma may drink or use drugs to self-medicate, putting their child in a harmful environment that will impact them for a lifetime. 

Generational Trauma & Addiction

Today, we know that the link between trauma and addiction is indisputable. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adults who experienced trauma were 300% more likely to have substance use disorders than those who did not. On the other hand, a study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that more than 70% of adolescents pursuing treatment for substance use disorder were found to have experienced a traumatic event in the past.

One reason for this link is that individuals who have experienced trauma may turn to substance abuse to cope with their symptoms. For example, someone who has experienced the horrors of combat may turn to alcohol to numb their pain. At the same time, trauma can impact the brain's reward system, making individuals more susceptible to substance use disorder.

Treating Generational Trauma & Addiction 

The deep links between trauma and addiction make a trauma-informed approach to substance use disorder treatment absolutely necessary. Dual-diagnosis residential treatment can successfully address both substance abuse and mental health issues simultaneously. 

At Country Road, the road to recovery starts with understanding each individual's history – and your goals for the future. Our experienced addiction treatment professionals work with each client to develop a personalized treatment plan to get you where you want to go.

Each treatment plan incorporates a range of powerful evidence-based addiction treatment modalities, including individual therapy, group therapy, CBT, DBT, EMDR, equine therapy, and more to address trauma and other mental health challenges. Additionally, we offer a range of holistic therapies, such as yoga and meditation, that can help clients manage stress and promote overall well-being.

Healing from Generational Trauma & Addiction

Generational trauma is a complex issue that can impact mental and physical health for generations. Be the one to stop the cycle of pain in your family. Start your road to recovery today, with our caring guides to walk you through it.