Thu. Oct 21st, 2021

PTSD and Addiction: How to Heal the Wounds You Cannot See

People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often abuse drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. This emotionally debilitating disorder can lead to intense anxiety, terrible flashbacks, and unwelcome memories, all of which can interfere with daily life. If you are suffering from PTSD and also have a substance use disorder, there is qualified addiction treatment help available.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a condition in which an individual experiences an extreme amount of anxiety and stress after being engaged in or witnessing a traumatic event. This can include physical and psychological traumas that leave a person feeling out of control and helpless. Some common causes of PTSD are military combat, sexual assault, childhood abuse, violent assault, and natural disasters.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.8 percent of U.S. adults (16.7 million people) suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. Some cases are more severe than others and some resolve with or without periods of disability.

Some of the common symptoms of PTSD that interfere with daily life include:

  • Re-experiencing the event or trauma through dreams, flashbacks, and frightening thoughts
  • Avoidance of people, places, or things that are reminders of the trauma or event
  • Reactivity through difficulty with sleep, being startled easily, and being quick to anger
  • Mood and cognitive symptoms such as a negative self-image, irrational feelings of guilt, lost interest in activities, and memory problems

The Link Between PTSD and Substance Abuse

People who suffer from PTSD are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who do not. Rates of co-occurrence across the U.S. found that 34.5 percent of men and 26.9 percent of women who had PTSD at some point during their lifetime also had a substance use disorder during their lifetime. However, men with a history of PTSD have much higher rates (51.9 percent) of substance abuse than women with a history of PTSD (27.9 percent).

The symptoms of PTSD can be so distressing to sufferers that the only way they can seem to cope is by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Endorphin withdrawal also plays a role in this process. When a person experiences a traumatic event, his or her brain produces endorphins as a way to deal with the stress and pain of the moment. Once that event has passed, the body and mind experience a type of withdrawal that can be characterized by physical and emotional pain as well as a craving for alcohol or drugs.

Unfortunately, this relief is only temporary. Alcohol and drug abuse produce more problems than benefits, particularly for someone with a co-occurring disorder such as PTSD. Fortunately, you can receive PTSD treatment in rehab.

Group of people sitting around in a circle supporting each other.


Can You Get PTSD Treatment in Drug and Alcohol Rehab?

When PTSD and addiction are occurring at the same time, it is essential that treatment for the two disorders also take place simultaneously. PTSD can magnify some of the effects of alcohol and drugs, and it can also have an impact on detox and drug rehab services…

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