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Residential Treatment Center for Boys Ages 14-18

 > Substance Use  > Connections to Substance Abuse in Teens and Trauma
substance abuse and trauma

Connections to Substance Abuse in Teens and Trauma

When teens experience trauma in their lives, it has a long and lasting effect. Every person reacts to experiences differently and researchers have seen a rise in experiencing trauma and substance abuse. Recently the National Survey for Adolescents found that one in four children and teens experience some form of traumatic event before the age of sixteen. They also found that one in five adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse and or are dependent on substances.  

Why substances? 

Teens who have experienced some form of trauma might turn to substances to help them cope with the aftereffects of the situation. As access to illicit substances grows more accessible, teens are able to self medicate and to temporarily find some relief from their stressors. Teens with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are much more likely to rely on substances because they are then more able to manage intense emotions and painful reminders of a traumatic event. There have also been studies that have shown that teens that are already abusing substances are less likely to be able to deal with traumatic events due to the long term damage that substances have on their rational and emotional processing systems. 

My teen is abusing substances does that mean that he has trauma? 

Teens who have a history of trauma have a higher risk for substance abuse, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who uses substances has experienced a traumatic event. This is why at programs like Equinox, therapists are trained to look for the indicators of trauma and help your child address the subject in a safe and healthy environment.  As parents, understanding the connection between trauma and substance abuse can give you a small glimpse as to what your child is feeling. Trauma is a complex, many-layered thing and substance abuse can become very tightly intertwined in it.

Equinox RTC can help

If you know that your child has any history of trauma and is now turning to substances, programs like Equinox can be extremely helpful because they have a multi-focused approach. The program is designed to look at why those behaviors are happening in the first place and then going from there, possibly addressing the trauma itself. When the trauma is addressed and taken out of a place of shame, the likelihood of unhealthy coping skills such as substance abuse can decrease dramatically. Your child can work with their therapist to address any concerns you have as parents and also come up with their own treatment plan on how to help your child.