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Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing or distressing event. Most people will experience some type of trauma in their lives. One in seven Americans lose a parent or sibling before the age of 20. One in ten children suffer from maltreatment. One in 16 children suffer from sexual abuse. These types of trauma can be very overwhelming and they can make life very difficult. Most people are able to eventually recover from the trauma with the help of friends, family, and therapists. However, there is no “cure” for the after effects of trauma and unfortunately, many traumatized people turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.

Boston University and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network posted this article titled Identifying Trauma and Substance Abuse in Adolescents which provided very interesting statistics about trauma and substance abuse. The report cited a study which found 25% of children and adolescents will experience at least one traumatic event by age 16. Research shows that trauma at an early age increases the risk for substance abuse later in life. The report also mentioned certain indicators of traumatic stress which include loss of trust, flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, depression, guilt, disruptive behavior, and withdrawal or isolation from other people. These indicators can escalate and turn into sleep disturbances, physical complaints, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse.

The types of trauma that are most likely to leave a lasting effect include experiences that have a deep emotional, psychological impact. For example, community violence, domestic violence, medical trauma, disasters (natural or man-made), neglect, physiological or physical abuse, violence, sexual abuse, combat, and even acts of terrorism may all cause serious, lasting trauma.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with emotional pain. However, turning to substance abuse is never the answer. Red flags that point to substance abuse include frequent intoxication, changes in friends, mood changes, and hostile outbursts. Other indicators of substance abuse may also include secretive behavior, depression, anxiousness, and poor hygiene. It’s important to get help right away if you or a loved one has suffered a serious trauma.