battling an addiction

PTSD and Substance Abuse – Understanding How The Two Go Together

Articles, Australia, International, Malaysia, Treatment, Understanding Addiction, United Kingdom, United States

Battling an Addiction – This is part two in a two-part series about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In part one of this series, we defined PTSD, discussed the situations that can cause the disorder, and listed the symptoms. Now, let’s talk about why people often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of Pots-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD Causes Painful Memories That Can Become Overwhelming 

Usually, the symptoms of PTSD show up immediately after someone has experienced trauma. However; someone can repress memories of whatever trauma they experienced. When that happens, those memories can resurface years after the traumatic event has taken place and begin to haunt the person like an old ghost.

In either case, it is usually the memories of the trauma that are the most disturbing aspect for a person who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are experienced as vivid flashbacks of the trauma.

Someone with PTSD will reexperience the event over and over, in spite of the fact that they don’t want to. This usually happens in the form of violent pictures that appear quickly and suddenly in their mind. These disturbing images are very painful and can cause someone to feel as if they are going insane. As much as they try to push these mental photographs out of their head, they are simply unable to do so.

These flashbacks are the mind’s way of working out the event and trying to make sense of it, but this doesn’t matter to the person who is experiencing these painful memories. They just want an escape – and they usually turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.

Battling an Addiction – PTSD And Substance Abuse Often Go Hand-in-Hand

Because PTSD is such a disquieting and uncomfortable experience, it’s no wonder that up to 75 percent of all people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with their condition. It is not uncommon for people with PTSD to get drunk, abuse prescription medications like Hydrocodone or Oxycodone, shoot heroin, snort meth, or smoke crack – ANYTHING that will numb the pain of the painful experience of having to relive their trauma over and over again.

This is unfortunate. The use of drugs and alcohol will never be a solution for treating PTSD. In fact, studies show that alcohol and drugs only make the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder worse.

When someone is abusing mood or mind-altering substances and has PTSD, they develop what is called a co-occurring disorder. This means instead of having just one mental health issue, they now have two. By developing a substance abuse problem in conjunction with PTSD, they require help for their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder AND their addiction to drugs or alcohol, which really complicates matters.

If You Have PTSD, Get Help – Don’t Turn To Drugs Or Alcohol As A Solution

If you have been struggling with PTSD, it can feel like all hope is lost, but it’s not. You can get help for your problem. There are a lot of options available for treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and medication treatment. Talk to a doctor and see which one is right for you.

If you are currently battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol, you need to get help for your substance abuse problem before you can address your PTSD. You may want to consider an in-patient treatment program that specializes in co-occurring disorders.

With time, things will get better. Keep fighting the good fight.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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