PTSD and Substance Abuse

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) impacts a variety of individuals, particularly those who have experienced trauma, such as military who have been in battle, violent crime victims, and victims of abuse or domestic violence.

Symptoms of PTSD include nightmares and flashbacks that relive the traumatic experience, difficulty sleeping, and feeling detached or estranged from others and from normal life circumstances. Sufferers may also startle easily or be irritable and continually on guard. People with PTSD also suffer with depression, memory problems, and other health problems more often than the general population.

Treatments for PTSD include psychotherapy and certain medications like antidepressants, but many people with PTSD do not realize what their symptoms are and, as a result, do not seek out treatment.

Statistics on PTSD and Substance Use

Both men and women who have suffered with PTSD are more likely to have addictions as well. Over one-third of men and over one-fourth of women are impacted by both PTSD and drug abuse during their lives. Over one-half of men with a history of PSTD have abused alcohol. (Rates of alcohol abuse for women with PTSD are similar to rates for drug abuse).

Finally, another study showed that up to 59 percent of those in substance abuse treatment have PTSD currently. These rates are much higher than the about 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women without PTSD that struggle with addiction, as well as the just under 8 percent of the general population that suffers from PTSD.

The Link Between PTSD and Addiction

There are a number of theories about why PTSD and addiction co-occur so often.

One theory is that when addiction occurs before PTSD, it may be that the addiction puts people at higher risk for traumatic events that can cause PTSD. Another theory is that people who have PTSD use substances to self-medicate their symptoms. Alcohol can reduce hyperarousal, and drugs can help blunt other symptoms of PTSD and manage them, to a point.

Yet another theory is that the use of drugs and alcohol changes the brain in some way that makes developing PTSD after trauma more likely. Finally, some theorize that genetics influence both the development of PTSD and addiction after a traumatic event.

It is possible that different theories can apply in different situations, or to people of different ages and developmental stages. Fortunately, treatment for both conditions can occur at the same time. Integrative treatment has been proven to work better than treating one condition at a time and is now the preferred way of handling co-occurring PTSD and substance abuse.

PTSD Treatment Options

Colorado rehab facilities including Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders such as PTSD find wholeness and healing. It is possible to resolve PTSD symptoms and addiction; treatment works to reduce symptoms of both when it addresses both, studies have found.  Learn about admissions to Recovery Village at Palmer Lake and the treatment programs we offer by contacting us today.