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Many drug addicts are self-medicating mental illness

While there have been studies testing the idea for over 20 years now, not many people realize that many, if not most, drug addicts are self-medicating for various conditions. In fact, some studies have found that as many as two-thirds of all people treated for addiction have some form of severe psychological trauma in the past. The exact findings vary from study to study, which is why it has been important for addiction research to find ways to conduct larger-scale investigations into the phenomenon.

Adverse childhood experiences

In a column for Psychology Today, Dr. Marc Lewis explains how childhood trauma increases the likelihood of addictive behavior in adults and how multiple kinds of trauma can have an intensifying effect. This leads to children who suffered repeated traumatic experiences in childhood having 500 percent or higher likelihoods of developing problematic relationships to alcohol. The likelihood of their using IV drugs went up 4,600 percent.

What to do about addiction

Harm reduction has been shown to be successful in a number of circumstances, but reduction alone is not the sole advice of researchers such as Dr. Lewis who study addiction and adverse childhood experiences. They also recommend treatment that supports genuine healing for the core traumatic experiences which often underlie addictive behavior. Those treatments are varied, but they can include:


  • Psychotherapy
  • Chemically assisted detox
  • 12 step work
  • Sober living assistance
  • Psychiatric medication


The best treatment results vary from case to case because trauma is incredibly specific and individuals need support that is designed to particularly help them and their lives.

Georgia drug statutes and addiction

Currently, Georgia has some of the toughest state-level penalties for drug charges, and the state also makes getting those charges expunged from one’s record incredibly difficult. The result is that people who may be in need of help run the risk of acquiring stigmatizing criminal records and potentially being deprived of access to research-informed treatment methods while they are incarcerated. The state’s controlled substances act makes the government’s stance on drug control clear, but that stance does not necessarily fall in line with the most recent research about effective addiction treatment.

What that means is that drug addicts who enter the criminal justice system find themselves at risk of being misunderstood and having their traumatic experiences exacerbated. This makes a good criminal defense for any drug charges essential, because a well-informed attorney may be the best chance that individuals have to access treatment and proper support for sober living after being charged with a drug offense.