U.K.-based Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), an organization dedicated to drug research and education, conducted a study that determined trauma was a resounding theme in drug users’ lives. In their report, SDF found trauma to be a “significant factor” contributing to the region’s drug problem.
The Trauma Factor
The sample size of the SDF study was quite small – just 55 participants – but the traumatic indicators were nonetheless consistent. All of the study participants used injectable drugs within the last five years and all participants were in recovery at the time of research. SDF recruited participants through several drug agencies and support groups across different parts across the country.
The primary goal of the study was to understand the lives of drug addicts in order to gain insights about the stigmas and stereotypes they face. The study included a series of interviews conducted by SDF fieldworkers, volunteers in recovery themselves.
The scope of trauma
When asked about their lives, nearly all participants cited some kind of traumatic event (or in many cases, multiple events). While trauma was a recurrent theme for the interviewees, many of them did not seem to fully grasp the difficulty such traumas had inflicted. Moreover, they were not the only ones who missed the signs.
“Many people’s stories implied that the severity and impact of what had happened to them had not been – at the time – appreciated by themselves, their families, or educational, health and social care services,” the study brief explains. “Indeed, some stories took for granted problems that seemed very severe to the researchers.”
The kinds of trauma that the study group experienced varied, but nearly all began in childhood. Drug addiction, research showed, was a “dysfunctional coping response” to the difficulties the addicts experienced. Examples of these events included most commonly broken homes and abuse: parental substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, violence and unresolved bereavement (including drug overdoses of parents of loved ones and murders of family members and friends).
Addressing trauma before it turns into addiction
The SDF study is one more indicator that addiction is a disease that has been unfortunately misinterpreted and mislabeled as a self-control issue. Dave Liddell, Director of SDF, agrees. “We hope that the findings of this research will help challenge the all-too-common perception that a person’s drug problem is a lifestyle choice or ‘self inflicted,’” he says. “In many cases, drug or alcohol use is a way of coping with trauma.”
Addiction treatment is not a blanketed, one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every case scenario. In fact, successful treatment is often dependent on several different methodologies. Research like this truly drives home the idea that considering the cause of addiction (in this case, trauma) is just as significant as treating the effects.
If you’re struggling with addiction as a result of trauma, or seeking help for a loved one fighting their own battle, get help today. The Watershed phone line is always open: 1-800-861-1768.