Why are some of us prone to addiction — whether alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or sex — and others aren’t? It’s a complicated question and one that continues to be investigated and debated by scientists and addiction specialists alike. A column written by Daniel Sumrok, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and director of the Center for Addiction Science, recently addressed this much-debated topic.
Among the causes of substance use disorder, Dr. Sumrok noted the role of trauma. Specifically, “physical trauma in the form of adverse childhood experiences and other psychological damage, mediated by genetics and environment, that physically change the way the human brain functions,” he wrote. In fact, he explained, these changes can even be seen on functional scans of the brains of people who have suffered trauma.
“Traumatized brains seek comfort and reward through the systems of the brain that control pleasure, motivation, satisfaction and reward reinforcement,” Dr. Sumrok said. “Desperate brains seek comfort desperately, often resulting in substance use, and hold on tight, even when this results in negative consequences like jail, disrupted families, hepatitis C or loss of a job.”
The link between trauma and addiction is perhaps most evident among the female population: Studies show that as many as 80 percent of women seeking treatment for drug abuse report lifetime histories of sexual and/or physical assault.
Luckily, despite the many unknowns, addiction specialists remain steadfast in trying to better identify the causes and prevent addiction early on. “Reducing addictions in the future will take a commitment by all to create safety and security for our children at home, at school and in the community,” Dr. Sumrok says.
Addressing Trauma and Addiction
The Willows at Red Oak Recovery? is a clinically dynamic, trauma-informed treatment center. In helping women to recover from the impact of trauma in their lives, we utilize an integrated approach based on theory, research, and clinical experience. To learn more, call: 866.457.7426.