How Physical Trauma Affects Addiction

January 29, 2023

Written By: Buena Vista Recovery

Physical trauma has many profound effects on an individual. It is important to understand that in addition to physical signs of injury, such as scars, physical traumas also surface various emotional and behavioral consequences. From the continued emotional effects of injury to the development of addiction, addressing the prolonged effects of physical trauma is necessary for a truly comprehensive healing journey. Identifying how physical trauma can affect the use of addictive substances is just the first step in creating a healthy, sober future. 

Forms of Physical Trauma

There are many ways in which physical trauma can have long-term effects on a person’s life. Physical trauma can result from accidents, such as car crashes, falls, trips, and more. Some may experience lasting scars from physical assault, bullying, or active duty, recognizing the added dangers faced by military personnel and first responders. Each of these sources of physical trauma can carry intense emotional effects, affecting how an individual views the circumstances leading to their injury, their perspective and worldview, and more. 

There are also many ways physical trauma can inform the use of drugs or alcohol. Whether an individual is exposed to addictive substances through prescription painkillers or in an attempt to self-medicate the emotional side of physical injury, addressing the use of drugs or alcohol is necessary for truly effective healing. 

Painkillers in Overcoming Physical Trauma

One of the most overt ways in which physical trauma can impact a person’s sobriety is the use of prescription painkillers to manage pain. Being prescribed painkillers to address intense or chronic pains even long after the initial traumatic event has ended is normal. However, many of these prescriptions carry highly addictive properties that can persist even after a person has “healed” from their physical traumas. 

Exposure to these drugs, particularly opioid-based painkillers, is dangerous. Once a prescription is finished, an individual may look to other means of attaining these addictive drugs. For some, this can result in self-destructive behaviors or engaging in self-harm to procure a refill, while others may look to illicit alternatives in pursuit of similar effects. 

Even if an individual was exposed to these substances in a medical setting and is using them as prescribed, their addictive effects can be just as detrimental to a person’s life, often resulting in “accidental addiction.” Engaging in a dedicated detox and addiction recovery program is necessary to challenge the continued effects of these drugs and how they may be informing each individual’s mental health and daily life. 

The Emotional Effects of Physical Injury

Even if an individual has healed from a past injury, scars or other remnants of these traumas can still inform the use of drugs or alcohol. Seeing the scars, stitches, or other reminders of physical trauma can all bring intense emotional effects, causing a person to relive or flashback to these traumatic events with regularity even long after the initial trauma has passed. 

This intense emotional effect can cause an individual to turn to drugs or alcohol in order to placate feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, and more. If these self-medicating practices are left unaddressed, they can quickly develop into an addiction.

Coping With Chronic Aches and Pains

Aches and pains are also common for those who have experienced physical trauma of any kind, with these chronic feelings further remaining an individual of their traumatic experience. An individual may feel physically limited or affected by these pains. It is common for an individual to look for a way to address these pains and their accompanying emotional tolls. However, this can also lead to a myriad of self-destructive practices for those healing from physical trauma. 

The use of drugs or alcohol in an attempt to address this pain, as well as any painful memories that may be connected to it, is common, even at the risk of further deterioration of a person’s physical health as a result. However, many of these aches and pains can masquerade as other challenges, with withdrawal symptoms from drugs or alcohol bringing similar symptoms in certain situations. Being able to differentiate between this pain, or when such pain is actively caused by the use of drugs or alcohol, is necessary to overcome any developing addiction and address the unhealthy relationship a person may have with addictive substances. 

Finding Effective Healing

Physical trauma will always carry an emotional toll. Even innocuous injuries, such as twisting an ankle during a sporting event, can change the way a person may play in the future. Finding professional healing that addresses prevalent physical pain, the emotional effects of physical trauma, and the use of addictive substances while exploring the connection between them is necessary for developing an effective recovery plan. Addressing these factors in tandem is essential for genuine, holistic, and lasting healing. 

Physical trauma can be a profound, life-changing experience. However, even after the initial pains have subsided, addiction can still manifest as a result of such trauma. At Buena Vista Recovery, we understand how physical trauma, mental health, and the use of drugs and alcohol are all interconnected. We are committed to creating a truly comprehensive approach to your needs and goals in recovery. From helping you navigate urges and cravings to establishing techniques to address feelings of anxiety, depression, trauma, and more, we believe in a comprehensive, transformative recovery experience. For more information on how we can create a treatment plan that is right for you,  call us today at (480) 741-9414 or verify your insurance here.