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Treating PTSD and Substance Abuse

PTSD and Substance Abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, develops after an individual experiences trauma. Studies indicate that one out of every three people will develop PTSD and require treatment. Many people experience two or three traumatic experiences throughout their lifetime. PTSD doesn’t necessarily develop only after experiencing trauma. Instead, it can develop after someone close to you has experienced trauma or for those who work as First Responders and witness traumatic events.

PTSD can come from:

  • Accidents
  • Injuries
  • Domestic abuse
  • Assault
  • Natural disasters
  • War
  • Torture
  • Violence
  • Illnesses 

While it’s perfectly normal to experience symptoms of PTSD, like trouble sleeping or flashbacks immediately after a traumatic event, it becomes a mental health disorder when, several months after the fact, those symptoms have not gone away and, in many cases, have gotten worse.

Liberty House Recovery is a Michigan drug treatment center that offers comprehensive addiction treatment. Call today to learn more.

The Relationship Between PTSD and Addiction

When individuals don’t have a diagnosis, the ongoing symptoms of PTSD can lead them to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. 

Those who struggle with PTSD often abuse benzodiazepines, alcohol, and sleeping pills to help temporarily relieve symptoms like recurring nightmares or insomnia.

This often leads to addiction. 

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Frequent stress 
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Sleeping problems
  • Nightmares
  • Intense flashbacks 
  • Disturbing thoughts
  • Problems concentrating

The problem is that triggers are unique to individual circumstances, so what triggers certain symptoms in one person might not be in another. Exposure to specific sounds, sights, or even smells could act as triggers and encourage drug or alcohol abuse. 

With ongoing addiction, symptoms of drug addiction can exacerbate symptoms of PTSD. For example, PTSD and addiction both contribute to higher levels of stress hormones like norepinephrine and adrenaline. These higher resting levels in the amygdala, when an individual is not in dangerous situations, can cause changes to brain structure. 

Eventually, the part of the brain responsible for memory, the hippocampus, gets smaller as the amygdala gets bigger, and this can make it difficult to concentrate or even store information in long-term memory. 

Other research indicates a high correlation between PTSD and addiction. People who struggle with untreated PTSD are more likely to use things like anti-anxiety medications or alcohol to reduce symptoms.

For example:

  • If someone experiences a flashback or nightmare while they’re sleeping, in order to get back to sleep, they might use high levels of alcohol
  • If someone gets triggered in the middle of a work day, they are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs to reduce their symptoms so that they can either mask or ignore the symptoms

In any of these situations, the PTSD remains untreated, so the risk of being triggered or experiencing flashbacks that encourage repeat alcohol abuse or substance abuse gets higher and higher. The best course of action is to treat both conditions at the same time. 

PTSD and Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone close to you is struggling with PTSD and substance abuse, dual-diagnosis PTSD treatment is the best option. 

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Dual diagnosis treatment is when you go to the same facility and get care for PTSD and addiction concurrently. This can include things like talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, holistic therapy, and medication.

How is Dual Diagnosis PTSD Treatment More Effective?

Dual diagnosis therapy is more effective than traditional addiction treatment because it helps target the underlying cause of addiction: PTSD. With traditional addiction treatment, an individual might get help for the physical aspects of their addiction, but soon after they return to their daily lives, stress and triggers might cause symptoms of PTSD to come back, starting the cycle of self-medication and substance abuse all over again.

Dual diagnosis PTSD treatment can include a daily schedule of holistic care like EMDR, which helps to reprocess the way in which memories, particularly traumatic memories, are stored in the brain without having to describe the events or circumstances to a therapist. This is the best-recommended therapy for PTSD used by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the World Health Organization

While targeting the underlying symptoms, the rest of the services received could help change things like negative automatic thoughts through cognitive behavioral therapy stress management techniques with meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.

Overall, PTSD and addiction are often interrelated. Getting the right help means finding dual-diagnosis PTSD treatment at a qualified facility like Liberty House Recovery. Our staff is here to help support your overall well-being by addressing the physical and psychological withdrawal from addiction and addressing untreated PTSD. 
If you are struggling with PTSD and substance abuse, contact our team today to tour our luxury drug and alcohol rehab center in Michigan.

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