What is the Role of PTSD in Addiction and Treatment?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by witnessing a traumatic event or experiencing it first hand. Those who experience PTSD may end up using self-medicating techniques like drugs or alcohol to reduce anxiety and stress. Most people who have suffered through events like this eventually overcome anxiety, depression, and agitation. When PTSD develops, these symptoms don’t go away, they might last for awhile but that is all. PTSD can emerge as a result of witnessing or experiencing natural disasters, terrorism, sexual abuse, death of a loved one, or serious accidents and injury.

Co-occurring PTSD and Addiction

PTSD changes the brain chemistry of a person who suffers from trauma. This disorder can occur at the same time as substance abuse. Nearly three-quarters of those surviving violent or abusive trauma report alcohol use disorders. Following a traumatic experience, the brain produces fewer endorphins, which makes people happy. People with PTSD may turn to alcohol and other mood-enhancing drugs. PTSD often causes people to feel disconnected from friends and loved ones. People with PTSD are more prone to violent outbursts, panic attacks, and feelings of difficulty with family and friends.

Symptoms and Effects of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD can change over time. Some symptoms might appear within three months of a traumatic episode, or it might take years until it fully comes about. PTSD impacts the parts of the brain associated with memory and emotions. A healthy brain can tell the difference between past memories and present memories but PTSD interferes with this process. People with PTSD might respond to a current environment that reminds them of past trauma. The brain responds like the past is present.
A person who experiences PTSD struggles with thoughts of suicide, abusing drugs, or alcohol that intensify the thoughts. Alcohol and drug addiction are also impacted by memory. A person with addiction is susceptible to triggers, or places and people associated with drug use that can lead to cravings. PTSD and addiction triggers can intensify symptoms of both disorders. PTSD is a serious disorder which can cause problems for people who are struggling with addiction issues. In recovery, it is important to address both mental health and addiction issues at the same time for the best recovery possible.

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