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Using alcohol and other drugs to cope and survive

Research is clear about the links between childhood trauma, pain, suffering, abuse and violence, and problematic AOD use.

A parent with problematic AOD use has likely experienced pain or suffering from their childhood or are currently experiencing pain from violence, neglect, sexual abuse, mental health, oppression, racism, disadvantage or poverty.

Seeing and understanding the challenges a parent has faced and how their experiences may have led to or maintain their AOD use is important. Helping parents make this connection and sharing this can be a catalyst for change.

When you help parents see their strengths, how they have used AOD to cope and survive, and the times when they have been able to create safety for their children, you give them courage to see themselves as a survivor.


Drugs help numb the feelings, produce positive feelings that override the negative emotions. Some have been abused to such a degree that it is to obliterate having any feelings at all. For some, the secondary trauma of life since then, struggles with relationships and life on the streets, their inability to cope with daily life, is what then perpetuates the using.

(Service worker UNSW, 2010) Use and abuse: Understanding the intersections of childhood abuse, alcohol and drug use and mental health)


Watch Dr Gabor Mate’s short video about the life experiences of people who are dependent on AOD use

What is Addiction?

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