According to insights from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), traumatic experiences—including neglect, family and social conflict, violence, abuse, and much more—are associated with both substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs).(1) Just as substance use is involved in some traumatic experiences, those who have experienced trauma often turn to substance misuse as an unfortunate and ineffective coping mechanism.  

At Immersion Recovery Center in Delray Beach, FL, we understand the connection between trauma and substance misuse, and we offer the tools, techniques, and caring professionals that can help you or someone you love better cope with both experiences. Offering individual, family, and group therapy alongside multiple levels of care, including detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient programs, Immersion Recovery Center provides both Floridians and out-of-state residents access to evidence-based dual diagnosis treatment. By treating both conditions at once, we help you identify and deal with the root causes of both conditions, leading to improved outcomes and long-term recovery.

Co-Occurrence of Trauma & Substance Use

As mentioned above, there’s a clear link between trauma and substance misuse. However, the severe or chronic stress associated with trauma can also change the parts of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, and learning, making it more likely for any substance use to lead to addiction.(1)

Stress can also increase cravings and lower your ability to control how you respond to impulses, making substance use harder to resist. Not surprisingly, substance misuse affects your brain in similar ways, which strengthens the argument that trauma and stress can make you more vulnerable to addiction.(1)

Prevalence of Trauma in Individuals with Substance Use Disorders

Trauma is the emotional response to an event, chain of events, or situations that you find threatening or harmful. Experiences such as natural disasters, acts of violence, the sudden loss of a loved one, as well as abuse, neglect, family conflict, bullying, racism, and discrimination can all result in trauma. 

Additionally, those who experience trauma and stress have been known to develop mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, NIDA information indicates that roughly 8% of those who have experienced trauma develop PTSD at some point in their lives.(1)

Self-Medication & Coping Mechanisms

Given the stressors associated with trauma, individuals often turn to the unhealthy use of substances as a coping mechanism. People may use these substances to escape or numb their feelings or to seemingly escape from reality.

Social & Environmental Influences

The world we live in can make us more vulnerable to trauma and SUDs. Factors that can affect your risk of developing a SUD include:(1)

  • Genetics
  • Surroundings
  • Family history of addiction
  • Childhood adversity
  • History of past drug 

Conversely, several protective factors can also shield you or help you better deal with traumatic experiences and exposure to illicit substances. Factors that make you less vulnerable include a sense of optimism and healthy relationships with family and friends.(1)

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Screening & Assessment for Trauma Histories

Screening for mental health and substance use issues simultaneously is integral to creating an effective treatment plan. Without proper screening, your trauma history and related symptoms may go undetected. As such, your treatment plan may be lacking critical steps and therapies necessary to help you develop the tools and strategies to deal with both trauma and substance misuse issues. 

At Immersion Recovery Center, our skilled and empathetic staff conducts in-depth evaluations designed to assess any and all mental health and substance misuse issues. Following this screening and assessment, staff work with you to create an effective, evidence-based treatment plan customized to meet your unique goals and needs. 

Addressing Trauma & Addiction Simultaneously

Just as trauma and addiction often occur together, successful treatment depends upon both being addressed simultaneously. In fact, insights from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment indicates that attempting to treat one while ignoring the other can lead to “poor engagement in treatment, premature termination, greater risk for relapse of psychological symptoms or substance use, and worse outcomes.”(2)

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Evidence-Based Therapies for Trauma Recovery

Cognitive behavioral therapy has long been recognized as an effective treatment for recovery from both trauma and substance misuse. Similarly, cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure (PE), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are among the trauma-focused therapies with the strongest evidence of success.(3)

At Immersion Recovery, we have developed a trauma-focused program that helps you work through unresolved trauma and provides the comprehensive care you need to heal mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our multi-faceted healing approach also provides the opportunity to explore holistic therapies, such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, to enhance your recovery.

Building Resilience & Coping Skills

To achieve long-term recovery, developing resilience and coping skills are paramount. With these two tools in your recovery toolbox, you are far more likely to remain sober and mentally healthy.

Resilience (i.e., the ability to recover from adversity or major life changes) and coping skills (i.e., the thoughts and behaviors used to manage stressful situations)—are developed over time via a variety of therapies. Immersion Recovery Center’s addiction treatment program provides holistic and traditional therapies designed to help you learn to stay grounded, improve self-confidence, and develop the agency needed to handle challenging situations without resorting to substance use.

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Trauma and substance use disorders are often co-occurring conditions, with one exacerbating the other. The only way to regain full wellness long term is to treat both conditions at the same time. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with trauma and addiction and needs help developing the tools necessary to manage them, Immersion Recovery Center in Delray Beach, FL, can help. We offer evidence-based care and therapies alongside optional therapies, group support, and case management services. Since treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, we’re dedicated to helping you find the treatment option that makes the most sense for your unique clinical needs. Our holistic approach and expert medical and clinical care provide a strong foundation for your long-term recovery. Contact us today to take your first steps toward lasting recovery.

  1. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Trauma and Stress. Available at:
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 4, Screening and Assessment. Available at:
  3. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD: National Center for PTSD. Available from:

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Serving as the Inpatient Clinical Director at Immersion Recovery Center, Susan will work directly with staff members, clients, and family members to ensure the clinical program remains as effective and individualized as possible. Susan is no stranger to the fields of behavioral health and addiction. She has over 25 years of experience, working in an inpatient setting, an outpatient setting, acute stabilization and nearly all other settings in the realm of addiction recovery.