Relationship Between PTSD, Sexual Trauma, and Substance Abuse

Relationship Between PTSD, Sexual Trauma, and Substance Abuse
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Child Sexual Abuse in the United States

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 62,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the United States in 2012—and those are only reported cases. Both boys and girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse of various kinds from teachers, family members, strangers, and even other children. Due to the nature of child sexual abuse (especially patterns of exploitation involving close family members or other authority figures), it often remains hidden and undealt with, creating lasting psychological and emotional wounds for affected children.

Why Substance Abuse Is Prevalent Among Sexually Abused Children

In many cases, children who are victims of sexual abuse tend to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to the profound trauma, insecurity, fear and stress that sexual exploitation creates. Children who are sexually abused often develop substance use disorders as adults, and people who were sexually abused as children are reportedly 1.5 times more likely than others to try illicit drugs or engage in risky drinking behaviors as teenagers and during adulthood.

It is not uncommon for victims of child abuse to develop the following emotional and mental health challenges:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dissociation
  • Personality disorders
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low self-esteem
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

All of the above issues can create powerful, negative emotions that are too intense for children and young adults to process without proper support. Children who have survived sexual abuse often begin overusing alcohol and engaging in illicit drug use as adults in order to numb bad feelings, block traumatic memories, ease anxiety, and provide temporary relief from the controlling effects of PTSD. In such cases, healing from substance use disorders always requires tailored treatment in order to address the factors that contribute to addiction and dependence on drugs and alcohol.

Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation for Adults in Scottsdale

At Acceptance Recovery Center, we see you, and we understand that drug and alcohol use disorders are often rooted in deep pain and mental health challenges. That’s why our programs are about more than just overcoming addiction and dependence—they’re about finding true healing and becoming the best you can be. When you come to us for help, we can provide you with the practical, relational, and medical support you need to detox, regain wellness, and learn to address the factors that contribute to your substance use struggle.

Call to receive a free assessment or click to learn more about our drug and alcohol rehab programs in Scottsdale.

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD