Discovering Recovery From Sexual Assault and Substance Abuse


Sexual assault is strongly associated with substance abuse. In a study involving substance abuse detoxification patients, 72% of the individuals reported experiencing past physical or sexual abuse. 

A two-way relationship exists between sexual assault and substance abuse, with each heightening the risk of experiencing the other. The intoxicating effects of drugs and alcohol can make individuals more vulnerable to sexual assault, as perpetrators may prey on those who are incapacitated by drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, victims of sexual assault, struggling to cope with their trauma, may turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of numbing their pain. 


Whatever the circumstances of sexual assault, victims are never to blame, although they may experience misplaced shame that can drive them to abuse substances. When this is the case, the abuse of substances may evoke more feelings of shame that can further motivate their use of drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their painful emotions.  

According to one study, rape victims are five times more likely to abuse prescription drugs, three times more likely to use marijuana, six times more likely to use cocaine, and 10 times more likely to use other illicit substances. Additionally, in a two-year study of victims of interpersonal assault, a category that includes sexual assaults, victims increased their use of alcohol and drugs even if they didn’t have a history of substance abuse. Furthermore, many victims of sexual assault develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that increases their risk of developing substance abuse disorder (SUD). 


Healing from sexual assault and substance abuse requires treatment that targets past trauma, while also empowering individuals to create meaningful lives in sobriety. Research doesn’t link histories of sexual assault with worse treatment outcomes, underscoring that recovery from sexual assault and substance abuse is entirely possible.

If you’re struggling with substance abuse related to sexual assault, our team of addiction treatment experts at Wasatch Crest can help you make amends with your trauma, create a foundation of self-compassion, and discover joy in recovery. Reach out to learn more about our addiction treatment programs in Heber City, UT.

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