Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many Americans after military combat, serious accidents, injury, natural disasters, terrorism, sexual abuse, physical abuse or the death of a loved one. Individuals with PTSD require therapy in order to move past their difficult experiences. Often, people also need both PTSD treatment and addiction treatment, as the two conditions often go hand-in-hand. Sadly, many people with PTSD self-medicate using drugs or alcohol, trying to save themselves from the daily struggle of their condition.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health disorder. It may result from witnessing or going through a highly traumatic experience. There are therapies and medications available to help heal PTSD and treat its symptoms. However, many people with PTSD don’t seek this care and instead turn to other methods of relief, such as alcohol or drugs.
PTSD may last for months or years after traumatic events. Not everyone experiences this level of trauma from the same type of events. However, people with PTSD suffer ongoing anxiety, agitation, and depression.
PTSD and Addiction as Co-Occurring Conditions
PTSD and addiction often accompany each other. People with PTSD experience changes in their brain chemistry similar to the changes that substance abuse and addiction cause. This is why addiction and PTSD easily take shape at the same time, feeding off of each other. The feelings that result from PTSD lead many people right into substance abuse and addiction.
About 75% of people who survive violent trauma or abuse report addiction to alcohol, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Science validates this statistic. After experiencing a trauma, your brain produces fewer endorphins, which are chemicals that promote happiness. Alcohol and mood-lifting drugs become attractive to people with PTSD because they crave the higher endorphin levels that these substances provide.
PTSD also can result in violent outbursts, panic attacks, isolation from friends and family, and the need for depression treatment and anxiety treatment. Guilt over these problems leads many people with PTSD to use drugs or alcohol in an effort to stabilize and soothe their symptoms. Repeated use of alcohol and drugs leads to addiction.
How PTSD Leads to Addiction
Someone with PTSD reacts to triggers because these remind them of the trauma they went through. The brain misunderstands the trigger as if the person is still in the traumatic time. This results in fear, stress, and anxiety as part of the fight or flight response. Some of the worst symptoms of PTSD include suicidal thoughts and feelings, which often get worse with drugs or alcohol.
If you or someone you love suffer from co-occurring PTSD and addiction, it may go undetected for a long time. PTSD keeps addiction from being obvious because the symptoms of both look like PTSD. On the other hand, someone you know who suffers from addiction may experience depression and other symptoms of PTSD that the substance abuse masks. You might write these PTSD symptoms off as side effects of their addiction.
People abusing drugs or alcohol in PTSD feel guilt and shame. This leads them to hide their substance abuse, believing they’re failing at coping with their own feelings. If you or someone you know suffers both conditions, it’s crucial that they receive both PTSD treatment and addiction treatment parallel to each other. Otherwise, one untreated condition can cause the relapse of the other.
Supporting Veterans with Substance Use Disorder
While some programs that offer rehab for veterans only address substance use or mental health, a well-rounded approach will provide both addiction and PTSD treatment. How important is getting care for both addiction and PTSD in the same program? It could prevent relapse and save a life.
If a veteran doesn’t get substance abuse recovery from a PTSD program, they may still relapse because they have underlying, unaddressed reasons behind the addiction. Relapsing is dangerous because it brings with it the dangers of overdosing, which could be fatal. A treatment program should do everything possible to help clients prevent this situation. Only by getting simultaneous treatment for both can a veteran hope to overcome the challenges of PTSD and substance addiction. Treatment options may include a variety of programs that help the client in several ways.
PTSD Treatment and Addiction Rehab in Portland, Oregon
Crestview Recovery in Portland, Oregon, provides dual diagnosis PTSD treatment with addiction rehab. Without PTSD treatment, your two conditions will continue driving your life deeper into darkness. Treating only the addiction increases the risk that your PTSD will fuel the relapse of substance abuse. For this reason, you need to seek a dual diagnosis rehab with a variety of therapies.
Crestview Recovery addiction treatment programs include:
- PHP, IOP, and outpatient rehab
- Aftercare programs
- Extended care 90-day rehab programs
- Dual diagnosis treatment, including PTSD treatment
- Individual therapy
- Trauma therapy
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.