Links Between Childhood Trauma and Alcoholism

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Studies show that bad experiences during childhood can make a person more likely to misuse alcohol or have alcoholism as they grow up. This page will talk about how childhood trauma and alcoholism are connected, and it will help you find support.

Understanding Childhood Trauma and Addiction

Experiencing trauma is very hard, especially for kids whose brains are still growing and are very sensitive to bad experiences.

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SAMHSA defines trauma as an event that hurts someone or puts their life in danger. These events can affect a person’s feelings, thinking, and body. It can also impact how they get along with others and their mental health.

Research shows that trauma can be even more harmful if it happens when someone is very young. The effects of trauma can last even after the event is over, and it might lead to serious thinking problems, health issues, and risky behaviors.

However, not every child who goes through trauma will have problems with substance abuse later. Having caring parents, and supportive friends, or doing well in school can offer protection against trauma and alcoholism.

Many studies have looked at how childhood trauma and alcohol use are linked.  College students who experience ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. They are also more likely to have depression and ADHD.

Research on childhood trauma and development of alcoholism shows that even one ACE could make it more likely for someone to have serious alcohol problems. Researchers also found that different bad childhood experiences were linked to starting to drink at 14 or younger, which makes it more likely to develop alcoholism later. The more ACEs, the higher the risk of alcohol problems. These experiences affect the start of alcohol problems and how long they last.

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How Do I Know if My Childhood Influenced My Alcohol Use?

Understanding if your childhood affected your alcohol use takes some thinking about yourself and often getting help from a professional. Consider the following:

  • Coping patterns: If you find yourself drinking alcohol when you’re stressed or to avoid feeling bad, this might be because of how you handled tough times as a kid.
  • Family history: If your family had issues with alcohol, you might have picked up some habits or feelings about drinking from them.
  • Trauma responses: If you went through hard times as a kid, you might drink to forget or dull those memories, which can lead to relying too much on alcohol.
  • Behavioral changes: Think about big changes in how much you drink. They may be linked to certain times or events from when you were young.

If you think your childhood might have impacted how you use alcohol, getting help from an expert can help you understand and deal with these issues.

Treatment for Childhood Trauma and Alcohol Addiction

Treating childhood trauma and alcohol addiction together needs special care because these issues are often connected. Our treatment programs help with both mental health and addiction at the same time to help you understand and heal from childhood trauma while dealing with alcoholism.

In the program, you get personal therapy from trained professionals who use proven methods to help you get better. CBT and other talk therapies help you work through trauma and learn better ways to cope. Medications may help reduce cravings and make your mood more stable.

Treatment for individuals who are dealing with both childhood trauma and alcohol addiction often requires an integrated approach that addresses both the psychological impact of trauma and the physical dependence on alcohol. Here are key components of effective treatment for these intertwined issues:

1. Comprehensive Assessment

  • A thorough evaluation by mental health and addiction professionals to understand the extent of the alcohol addiction and the impact of childhood trauma.
  • Assessments may include psychological evaluations, medical exams, and detailed discussions about the person’s history and current symptoms.

2. Trauma-Informed Care

  • Treatment that recognizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery.
  • Ensures that every aspect of treatment is sensitive to the trauma experienced to avoid re-traumatization.

3. Individual Therapy

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps individuals recognize and change negative thinking and behavior patterns.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Useful for teaching coping skills to manage emotions, improve relationships, and handle stress without relying on alcohol.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): A form of therapy that helps process and make sense of traumatic memories.

4. Group Therapy

  • Provides support from peers who have similar experiences, which can reduce feelings of isolation.
  • Groups often focus on building skills to manage emotions and maintain sobriety.

5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

  • Medications like naltrexone, disulfiram, or acamprosate may be used to help manage alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications can be prescribed to manage symptoms related to trauma, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

6. Family Therapy

  • Helps to repair and strengthen family relationships that may have been damaged by addiction and unresolved trauma.
  • Educates families on how to support their loved one’s recovery and how to communicate effectively.

7. Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques

  • Practices like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their emotional state and learn to regulate stress and anxiety without alcohol.

8. Therapeutic Activities

  • Engaging in activities like art therapy, music therapy, or equine therapy can provide non-verbal outlets for expressing feelings and processing trauma.

9. Relapse Prevention Education

  • Teaching individuals how to identify triggers for both trauma responses and alcohol use.
  • Developing a comprehensive plan to manage triggers and prevent relapse.

10. Aftercare and Support

  • Ongoing therapy and support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other sobriety support groups.
  • Continuous monitoring and adjustments to the treatment plan as needed.

To learn more about a dual diagnosis program for both addiction and trauma, call our team at 949.694.8305.

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Get Trauma and Addiction Treatment at California Detox

If you need help with alcoholism and childhood trauma, California Detox in Laguna Beach has many treatment options for you.

Start with our medical detox program. It helps you safely stop using substances with the help of medications that reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. After detox, you can move into an inpatient program where you live at our luxury rehab center.

At California Detox, we create a personal treatment plan for each person. We use proven methods and whole-body treatments to help you recover from addiction. These include:

To get started with trauma and addiction recovery treatment, call our friendly team at 949.694.8305 today.


Childhood trauma can change the way a child’s brain develops. This can affect their emotion, how they handle stress, and their ability to learn and remember things.
Yes, addiction can run in families. Both genes and the environment a family provides can influence whether someone might develop an addiction.


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