Mary J. Blige’s admission of being the victim of childhood molestation on her “Behind The Music” has triggered discussion of the connection between molestation and addiction. She survived. Many victims never come out of the downward spiral of addiction.
Victims of rape or sexual assault may turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to relieve their emotional suffering. In the U.S., victims of sexual assault report higher levels of psychological distress and the consumption of alcohol than non-victims, in part, to self-medicate. Some victims use substances to cope with the reality of what happened to them or to cope with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a common reaction to an extreme situation like sexual assault. However, it is not a healthy way to deal with the trauma of sexual assault and can cause additional problems, such as addiction or dependence, that hinder the healing process.
Survivors of sexual assault or sexual abuse in childhood may abuse drugs to help them “numb out” and push away the painful memories of sexual violence. Victims may also turn to drugs instead of true recovery resources, such as counseling; they may not think that friends or family will understand them, they may not know where to access recovery resources, or they may be embarrassed to talk about what happened.
When compared to non-victims, rape survivors are 3.4 times more likely to use marijuana, 6 times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other major drugs. It may be helpful for a survivor to share their experiences and concerns with a qualified service provider (i.e. counselor or psychologist). A general physician can suggest community resources as well as prescribe medications to control cravings and withdrawal symptoms while the user seeks further help.
If you feel you are suffering from substance abuse:
- Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and ask for help.
- Contact the free Substance Abuse Treatment Referral Helpline.
- Contact your doctor.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you are suffering from a cough that won’t go away, fever, continuing feelings of depression, jaundice, mild tremors, leg swelling or increased abdominal girth.
- Call 911 or go to a hospital’s emergency department immediately if you are suffering from severe abdominal pain, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, severe tremors, numbness, or suicidal thoughts.
If you know or suspect someone you love is suffering from substance abuse
- Contact the free Substance Abuse Treatment Referral Helpline for support and advice on helping your loved one.
- 1.800.662.HELP (4357)
- Do not “cover up” for your loved one. It is important that he or she get the help that they deserve.
- Choose a time to speak with your loved one when he or she is sober, when both of you are fairly calm, and when you have a chance to talk in private. It is also best to speak to your loved one shortly after a substance-related problem has occurred (like a serious family argument or accident).
- Gather information in advance about treatment options in your community. If the person is willing to get help, call right away for an appointment, and offer to go with him or her for support.
It is time we bring this out of the darkness into the light.
Make sure you are following @Elev8official for stories like this and more. For more from Oretha Winston follow her on twitter here.