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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), effects as much as 8% of the American population. It is a mental health disorder that impacts the lives of millions of people who suffer through a traumatic event in their life. It is estimated that 44.7 million people will have PTSD at least once in their life.

As a person deals with trauma, it impacts their entire life. Usually, trauma is caused by things such as war, abuse, a severe illness, the loss of a loved one, divorce, and rape. While these situations normally take time for the person to heal, PTSD often lingers long after the traumatic event happens. The worst part about PTSD is how it can often create even more dangerous circumstances. A person with PTSD is more likely to find his/her life burdened with severe anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other problems that would lead the person to self-medicate. In order to feel good again, he/she may drink an abundance of alcohol or take drugs.

Symptoms of PTSD

A person who has PTSD endures a lot of physical and mental frustrations. In fact, the symptoms of PTSD leave a person feeling hopeless, exhausted, and full of despair. Here are several common PTSD symptoms:

  • Intense fear or horror
  • Helplessness
  • Hyper-awareness of surroundings
  • Avoidance of events that feel familiar to the traumatic event
  • Feeling of detachment
  • Intrusive memories and thoughts
  • Flashbacks
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Nightmares

Link Between PTSD and Addiction

To understand better how PTSD can lead to addiction, one must first understand how addiction is caused in the first place. It is not easy to live a life burdened by the traumatic experience the person has had. Because these events trigger anxiety, depression, insomnia, and many other conditions, the patient will try their best to feel normal again.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine says that addiction is defined as a disease of the brain caused by drug or alcohol use. When a person starts taking drugs to medicate their condition, they do not do so with the intent of it becoming an addict. However, over time, the substances often change their brain chemistry.

This change in brain chemistry leads to an increased desire for more of that drug. The dose they started with does not have the same effect as it once did. The release of dopamine, serotonin, and other feel-good chemicals are not as strong the longer you take a medication. That forces the person to start abusing the drug by taking more than prescribed. This is commonly called substance abuse.

Their situation is often made worse as the drug takes hold of their life resulting in a substance use disorder. They find themselves unable to control their addiction, which usually has negative emotional, personal, physical, and social effects. Therefore, not only are they suffering from post-traumatic stress, but their drug of choice is also working against them now.

Commonly Abused Drugs with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD patients are likely to take medications to help control their emotions. These drugs work to inhibit the brain’s ability to control the fight or flight response that often causes anxiety and depression. Usually, these fear and anxiety responses are the brain’s way of dealing with the overstimulated effects associated with PTSD.

Because of this, it is usually the medications that depress their bodily systems. These depressants dampen the central nervous system’s response often responsible for causing panic attacks. These substances are classified as:

  • Prescription opiate painkillers
  • Heroin
  • Alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety medications, like Xanax or Valium, also known as benzos

There is a strong correlation between PTSD and alcoholism. Recent Developments had a study released that found as much as 80% of veterans seeking help for PTSD also struggled with alcohol abuse and addiction. Alcoholism is not the only co-occurring illness. Abusing substances to help relieve symptoms can magnify the problems they have.

This can make a recovery last much longer. The chance of risky behavior and impulsive decisions also increases. That is why turning to drugs and alcohol to cope is never the right decision. It may seem like a way to mask symptoms but only makes things worse.

PTSD and Addiction Treatment

Because PTSD and addiction have co-occurring disorders, it is best to seek a treatment option that cares for your entire well-being. Medical detox will be the first step to get the person away from their desire to take illicit substances. A medical professional will oversee the process and can help cut down on the many withdrawal symptoms that can occur.

The next phase will be critical in preparing the person for a successful recovery. Different types of therapy will be used to not only treat the addiction but the underlying PTSD symptoms as well. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , as well as massage therapy[ , and other stress management techniques will be used.

Contact Serenity Acres today if you or a loved one suffers from PTSD and substance abuse.