Addressing Trauma-Linked Intergenerational Addiction In Black Women

A Penn State study reveals that many Black women experience trauma-related substance abuse. Racial and gender-based discrimination impacts Black women’s relationship with substances, and this discrimination perpetuates the addiction cycle among generations.

Addressing Trauma-Linked Intergenerational Addiction In Black Women

Black women face high rates of intergenerational addiction, according to a recent Penn State study.

Though people of all races and genders have a greater risk of addiction when a parent abuses substances, Black women face unique stressors that add to this risk.

The study notes that when Black families experience intergenerational substance use, trauma plays a major role.

Racial And Gender-Based Discrimination

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are complicated conditions with multiple risk factors. One prominent risk factor comes from chronic stress and trauma.

Marginalized people, including Black women, face a large amount of stress and trauma due to discrimination.

For Black women, this trauma becomes compounded, as they face both racial and gender-based discrimination.

A Lack Of Access To Resources

When people face chronic stress and trauma, they may turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.

For instance, a person may use opioids to numb negative feelings, or they may abuse stimulants to deal with the energy-draining effects of stress.

However, when people have resources such as social support and mental health services, they may find healthier coping mechanisms to deal with their stress.

Black women have fewer of these resources than their white peers. For example, among people who have a mental health diagnosis, 37.6% of white people receive treatment, while only 25% of Black people do.

This lack of treatment and support leaves many Black women without an outlet to cope with stressors, which often leads to substance abuse.

The Link Between Trauma And Substance Abuse

Substance abuse has a strong connection to trauma. People who experience trauma, including trauma resulting from racial and gender discrimination, face a higher risk of substance abuse.

Once again, trauma often leads people to abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with difficult mental health symptoms.

Likewise, people who abuse substances are more likely to experience traumatic events than those who do not abuse substances.

Therefore, trauma and substance abuse can create a vicious cycle. The trauma resulting from substance abuse may cause people to use even more substances to cope.

How Substance Abuse Becomes Intergenerational

Addiction does not only impact the person who experiences it. It also impacts that person’s loved ones.

In many cases, this impact can cause the use of substances and SUDs to be passed from one generation to the next.

Genetics And Family History

Genetics and family history play a role in addiction, regardless of race. Some people are genetically predisposed to substance abuse.

While genetic predisposition does not guarantee that a person will experience addiction, it does mean that they have a higher risk of turning to substances when faced with trauma and stress.

Furthermore, simply being exposed to drugs and alcohol at a young age is a risk factor for addiction. As a result, when a parent abuses substances, their children face a heightened risk of facing addiction as well.

Intergenerational Cycles Of Trauma

The Black American community has a long history of traumatic experiences.

Throughout American history, Black people have faced enslavement, inhumane medical experimentation, denial of civil rights, and several other major abuses, which can result in trauma.

When a person experiences trauma, it can impact their children, and not simply because a parent with trauma may behave differently than a parent without trauma.

Recent research shows that trauma can create changes in a person’s DNA, impacting the eggs and sperm of those who experience these difficulties.

These changes may result in heightened fear responses in the children of trauma survivors, which, for some people, may contribute to substance abuse.

Furthermore, the stress of witnessing a parent experience substance abuse can also create trauma, leaving many children at an even greater risk for addiction.

Find Addiction Care Now

Addiction and trauma often overlap, and both conditions are complex and difficult. However, trauma-informed addiction treatment can help people begin their recovery.

If you or a loved one are dealing with addiction, contact Addiction Resource today to learn how to begin treatment.

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Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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