Addiction and Natural Disasters: The Dangers

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD, MPH

Table of Contents

Trauma and Natural Disasters

Another important aspect to consider in the topic of natural disasters and addiction is that in and of itself, a natural disaster can be the cause of trauma that leads to substance abuse. Natural disasters such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis can create a significant amount of stress and fear in a person’s life and result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is because of the way that natural disasters can affect a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and psychological health.

The brain is the command center of all physical and emotional responses. The experience of surviving a natural disaster can lead to an imbalance of hormones that influence and drive functions such as eating and sleeping. The shock from trauma can cause the brain to repeatedly trigger the fight or flight response, which is a natural reaction that occurs when a person experiences or even perceives a scary event, attack, or threat.

Often, untreated or undiagnosed PTSD can lead a person to seek out relief through drugs and alcohol. Many people who have been affected in this way by natural disasters do not even realize that they using to seek relief from these past traumatic experiences.

Natural Disasters and Relapse Risks

If someone is already in recovery and is about to experience a natural disaster, they should be careful and stick close by the support system that they have hopefully already built for themselves. The stress and anxiety that comes along with experiencing a natural disaster can potentially heighten the risk of a person returning to substance use. This is especially true if the person has lost a loved one or been displaced because of the natural disaster.

The person’s family and support system should be vigilant with their loved one and pay close attention to any treatment that may be needed if they sustain injuries during the natural disaster. The individual in recovery should be sure to consider and weigh out the potential risks of receiving any opioid medications to treat pain. If the affected person is not careful, a relapse can be triggered, no matter how many years of a sobriety they may have. Of course, this depends on the extent of damage that happens as a result of the natural disaster.

Just because an individual experiences a natural disaster does not mean that they will end in a relapse. It helps tremendously if family and friends surrounding an individual in recovery pay careful attention to the way they are coping and handling the experience of the natural disaster.

Treatment Options for Natural Disaster Victims

If you or someone you love has experienced issues with substance abuse that is related to an involvement in a natural disaster, help is available. Options for therapy include inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, substance abuse counseling, one-on-one therapy sessions, group sessions, support groups, and building a trusted support network of positive people.

Still, with all things considered, substance abuse treatment facilities that specialize in co-occurring disorders are going to be the best option for an individual who is experiencing a dual diagnosis PTSD and a Substance Use Disorder.

If you feel that you are using drugs and alcohol to cope with the lingering effects of a traumatic situation, inpatient substance abuse treatment could help save your life and get you back on track.

If there is one lesson to learn from dealing with any traumatic experience, it would be that using drugs and alcohol to cope will only compound, complicate, and add to the problems that you experience in life.

The courage lies within you to get better and choose a path of healing. It’s up to you to reach out and admit that help is needed. There are many treatment centers that are proud to offer treatment for co-occurring disorders because they know that it can help you turn your life around. Call us today to be connected with a treatment center that best fits your needs.

Susana Spiegel

Susana Spiegel

Susana has experience writing about addiction, treatment, mental health, and recovery. She holds a Bachelors in Arts of Theology from GCU, and has a deep empathy for those who are struggling with addiction, as she is in recovery herself.

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