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Trauma & Substance Use

Cycle of substance abuse and trauma

What is substance use?

Substance use is when someone drinks too much alcohol or uses illegal or “street” drugs, such as opioids that are not prescribed by a doctor, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, crack, PCP and bath salts. 

Injuries and trauma are more likely to happen when people are using drugs or alcohol.

It’s a cycle. Experiencing an injury or trauma can may someone more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol. 


Misusing drugs and alcohol make it more likely to experience an injury or trauma.

Trauma and substance use may also go hand-in-hand with other medical conditions like pain, depression and anxiety.


Many people struggle with substance use and misuse during their lives. Do not feel alone.

  • 1 in 20 teens and adults in North Carolina have used prescription pain medications when it was not prescribed to them.
  • 1 in 40 people have used illegal opioids in the past year.
  • 1 in 20 people have drunk alcohol too heavily or too often in the past year. 

Sometimes it can seem like there is a stigma around talking about substance use or seeking help. Some people in your life may also use substances, which can make it harder to stop using these things. You or your loved one may also not be ready to make a change.

Know that many resources are available to you — many of which are free.

You or your loved one may also think that only serious problems with substance use need help stopping. Even if you only rarely use drugs or other substances, there are resources available to you. 

Have you been hurt or needed to go to the hospital when you or someone else was using substances? Below is a list of resources you can reach out to for help. They are professional groups and organizations that specialize in improving the lives of people with substance use. 

Some resources for you to explore:

Behavioral Health Barometer: North Carolina, Volume 5: Indicators as measured through the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. HHS Publication No. SMA-19- Baro-17-NC. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019