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Trauma-Informed Care in Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction occurs when repeated use of a drug changes the way the brain functions, leading to intense cravings for the drug, loss of control over drug use, and difficulty in abstaining from the drug.

Navigation: What is Trauma-Informed Care?, What Are the Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Care?, Why is Trauma-Informed Care Important?, What is Trauma-Informed Treatment for Substance Use Disorder?, How to Tell if You Need Trauma-Informed Care, Treatment for Substance Abuse and Addiction, Rehab is Your Best Chance


Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use despite the harmful consequences. An addicted person will prioritize drugs or alcohol over everything else, even when they are already experiencing its adverse health effects.

Drug addiction occurs when repeated use of a drug changes the way the brain functions, leading to intense cravings for the drug, loss of control over drug use, and difficulty in abstaining from the drug.

People with addiction may continue to use drugs even when it interferes with their work, relationships, and health. It’s easy to dismiss someone with an addiction as a person with no willpower or moral standards. But this is just the stigma, and does not actually reflect the reality of the situation. In fact, addiction is a complex disorder that can involve physical, psychological, and social factors. Some people are more likely to become addicted than others, but the results are always devastating.

In fact, addiction can be traumatic in several ways.

Addiction causes physical trauma. Drug and alcohol addiction can cause physical harm to the body, leading to serious medical complications. This can include organ damage, neurological damage, and other health issues that can be traumatic to the individual experiencing them.

Addiction can also be traumatic from a psychological standpoint. The guilt, shame, and feelings of failure that often accompany addiction can be overwhelming and may have a significant impact on an individual’s mental health. Additionally, the withdrawal symptoms that can occur during the detoxification process can be emotionally and physically painful.

Addiction can even have a significant impact on an individual’s relationships and social life. It can cause them to withdraw from their loved ones, damage their professional relationships, and lead to social isolation. This further spirals into feelings of loneliness and despair.

The worst part is that it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, and socioeconomic background. Treatment for drug addiction usually involves a combination of medication, therapy, and support groups. We’re here to talk about one specific type of treatment that is considered one of the best ways to help someone who is struggling with an addiction: trauma-informed care.


What is Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care (TIC) is an approach to healthcare and social services that recognizes and responds to the impacts of trauma on an individual’s well-being. It is a way of providing care that takes into account the physical, psychological, and emotional effects of trauma on a person.

Trauma-informed care acknowledges that many people have experienced trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or violence, and that this trauma can affect a person’s health and behavior.

Trauma-informed mental health services help patients deal with psychological trauma as well as physical trauma caused by adverse childhood experiences, substance use disorders, or a traumatic event. As you can see, TIC is not just for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. It can be for anyone who has been through a similar experience or exhibiting similar symptoms.

Implementing trauma-informed care is all about protecting clients and making sure they can avoid getting re-traumatized by insensitive or poorly-informed care.

Trauma therapy seeks to take away the focus from “what’s wrong with you?” to “what happened to you?” This is an informed clinical practice that takes into consideration traumatic events, conditions, and trauma-related disorders that the person has struggled with in the past.

Trauma-informed care means that healthcare providers work to accommodate patients and help them address trauma through healthy coping mechanisms. It requires a complete picture of the patient’s situation so that primary caregivers can adjust treatment according to their specific needs. The goal is to work towards long term recovery while addressing all of the patient’s medical needs.


What Are the Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Care?

Trauma-informed care can be applied in a variety of settings, including healthcare, social services, education, and criminal justice. It recognizes that trauma can have a significant impact on an individual’s health and well-being, and that providing care in a sensitive and trauma-informed way can help to promote healing and recovery.

Although the approach may differ from one treatment center to another, there are certain core principles of trauma-informed care that most rehabs follow carefully.

Here are some of the key principles of trauma-informed care:

Safety: It is important to create a safe and stable environment for the individual, both physically and emotionally. It’s not enough that the person is physically safe, they also need to feel safe in the treatment facility. This means they need to feel psychologically safe in the hands of the staff and all members of the healthcare organization.

Trustworthiness and Transparency: Building trust with the individual through open and honest communication is very important. To help them feel safe in the treatment center, care providers need to respect their autonomy and choices. When decisions are made, they are made with transparency. The patient is always on the same page. The goal of trauma-informed care is to build and maintain trust so the patient can open up to the support that they need.

Peer Support: Connecting individuals with peers who have similar experiences can help them feel less alone in their struggles. Traumatic events can make you feel powerless, hopeless, afraid, and alone. But the social aspect of treatment can give you the support and understanding you need to stay strong.

Collaboration and Mutuality: Being transparent and communicating with the patient is very important. Healthcare providers need to work collaboratively with the individual to identify their needs and goals, and to develop a care plan that is tailored to their unique situation.

Empowerment, Voice and Choice: TIC empowers individuals to take control of their own care, giving them a voice and choice in the decisions that affect their lives.

Why is Trauma-Informed Care Important?

TIC recognizes that many individuals have experienced trauma and that trauma can have a profound effect on people’s physical, emotional, and mental health.

TIC is important because it provides a framework for understanding how trauma affects individuals, which in turn guides professionals in providing care that is sensitive and supportive.

By taking a trauma-informed approach, professionals can help individuals feel safe, understood, and validated, which can be crucial for healing.

Trauma-informed care creates an environment of safety and security. This feeling of safety can be essential for recovery, especially for those who have been in traumatic situations like a car accident, sexual harassment, or being with an abusive parent.

TIC reduces the risk of re-traumatization. By being aware of the potential triggers for trauma survivors, TIC helps to avoid re-traumatizing individuals.

Trauma-informed care also encourages a collaborative approach to treatment, which can improve communication between professionals and patients. This approach empowers individuals, recognizing their strength and resilience in the face of trauma. This motivates them to take an active role in their own recovery.

Trauma-informed care is important because it can lead to better outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma, and it can create a more supportive and healing environment for those who are seeking care.

What is Trauma-Informed Treatment for Substance Use Disorder?

As we’ve established, trauma-informed care can be implemented for a wide range of trauma-related disorders. However, it is perhaps most commonly used for patients who are struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction.

When it comes to addiction recovery, TIC recognizes the pervasive impact of trauma on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. This approach emphasizes the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for individuals who have experienced trauma, and integrates trauma-focused interventions into addiction treatment.

TIC also acknowledges the fact that addiction often co-occurs with trauma. In fact, trauma can play a significant role in the development and maintenance of addiction. Trauma can refer to a wide range of experiences, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, neglect, accidents, natural disasters, and war-related trauma.

Trauma-informed addiction treatment typically involves a range of interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), mindfulness-based interventions, and group therapy. These interventions aim to help individuals understand and process their traumatic experiences, develop coping strategies for managing trauma-related symptoms, and build resilience and self-compassion.

How to Tell if You Need Trauma-Informed Care

If you have experienced trauma or have symptoms of trauma, you may benefit from trauma-informed care. Here are some signs that you may need trauma-informed care:

You have experienced a traumatic event, such as physical or sexual assault, abuse, a natural disaster, or a serious accident.

You have symptoms of trauma, such as anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviors, or dissociation.

You have been diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline personality disorder (BPD), or dissociative identity disorder (DID).

You have a history of substance abuse or addiction, which often co-occurs with trauma.

You have difficulty trusting others or forming healthy relationships.

You have a history of self-harm or suicidal ideation.

You have experienced significant stress or trauma in your current or past work or personal life.

If any of these apply to you, it may be helpful to seek out a healthcare provider or therapist who specializes in trauma-informed care. They can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and helps you heal from past trauma.

Treatment for Substance Abuse and Addiction

Trauma-informed care is a healthcare approach that may be applied to a wide range of treatment methods and programs. If a treatment program is “trauma-informed”, you can be certain that healthcare providers are going to be supportive, trustworthy, and sensitive to your needs.

With that in mind, you may still want to know how treatment for substance abuse usually works. Addiction treatment typically involves a combination of medical, psychological, and social interventions that aim to help individuals overcome their addiction and maintain long-term sobriety.

The first step in addiction treatment is often detoxification, which is the process of removing drugs or alcohol from the body. This can be a difficult and uncomfortable process, and may require medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms.

Once detox is complete, an addiction treatment program may use behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and contingency management (CM). These therapies help individuals develop coping skills, identify triggers that lead to drug or alcohol use, and build resilience and confidence to stay sober.

In some cases, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) may also be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for drugs or alcohol. MAT typically involves the use of medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone.

Social support is an important aspect of addiction treatment. This may involve participation in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as involvement in sober living communities or other recovery-focused programs.

Ultimately, addiction treatment is a highly individualized process that depends on the specific needs and circumstances of each individual. Successful treatment typically requires a combination of different interventions and a commitment to long-term sobriety.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you today that offers trauma-informed care. There are plenty of resources online such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which can give you a wide variety of information regarding addiction and treatment. Get started on the journey to long term sobriety today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.


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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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