As many as ⅔ of patients in treatment for substance addiction report being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused as children, according to research published by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse.
It’s impossible to tally the staggering costs of child abuse, both to its victims and to society as a whole. One of the most tragic consequences of this national epidemic is how it puts its victims at heightened risk for a lifetime of addictive disorders.
Helping people to achieve lasting recovery from substance addiction will require mending the damage done, not only to the mind and emotions, but to the brain itself.
The Link Between Mental Trauma and Brain Damage
The hippocampus is a small yet crucial structure in the brain that contributes to memory formation and emotional stability. Damage to this region can predispose the victim to periods of profound anxiety and depression. Recent studies show that the psychological trauma caused by child abuse can prevent the hippocampus from developing normally. This, in turn, primes the victim’s mind to develop depression, anxiety, and even post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these conditions can drive individuals to substance addiction and abuse
An Unending Cycle of Abuse and Substance Addiction
Studies show that 84% of adult addicts report suffering neglect or abuse as children, lending support to the theory that addiction breeds abuse and vice versa. Ending this tragic cycle requires undoing as much of the damage caused by child abuse as possible. Let’s look at three promising treatment options.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Therapists developed CBT to prevent relapse among recovering alcoholics. So it makes sense that this form of counseling can treat other types of addiction. CBT also helps victims of child abuse and other forms of PTSD to overcome their suffering.
CBT works by enabling counselees to recognize and change irrational and maladaptive thought patterns, allowing them to reshape the way their minds work. Research shows that it can reverse damage to the hippocampus, including the types of trauma discussed above.
Group counseling is one of the oldest forms of therapy in existence. It draws from the natural supportive effect that emerges when people with shared backgrounds or life challenges gather together for mutual encouragement.
Mental health professionals have fine-tuned group-based therapeutic approaches over the past century to include insights from psychological and psychiatric disciplines. In today’s world, it’s possible to find groups for people recovering from child abuse, substance addiction, and related forms of trauma. Therapists have blended support group formats and CBT counseling methods to achieve impressive results.
Meditation was once regarded as a fringe practice suited only to Eastern mystics or Western eccentrics. This began to change in the 1980s, when research began to uncover a host of real-world benefits from regular meditation. These include:
● Reduced levels of anxiety, depression, and fear.
● Increased empathy and compassion for others.
● Improved ability to concentrate.
● Reduction of PTSD symptoms.
● Lessened risk of addiction relapse.
These findings show that meditation can help both addicts and victims of childhood abuse to enjoy lasting recovery.
Meditation’s benefits are independent of its religious associations. People from almost any spiritual or philosophical background, including secularists, can benefit from meditating. All the practitioner needs is a genuine desire to get better and a small amount of free time to spend in quiet surroundings.
The Final Word
Childhood trauma and substance addiction are two forms of a single malicious disease. But modern medicine offers a variety of options for dealing with both problems, making lasting recovery more achievable than ever before.