Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse
A Better Today Recovery Services understands the struggles that we all must face when life is overwhelmingly difficult. When life becomes overwhelming, we don’t always find the right answer on how to deal with it.
Many people who struggle with anxiety, stress, or trauma turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with what is going on or what had happened to them in the past. When left up to our own devices PTSD can leave us dealing with symptoms that we don’t understand how to treat.
PTSD is becoming more commonly diagnosed in combination with addiction. Many who have never been enlisted are realizing that they too suffer the same symptomatology as those who have survived constant gunfire and near-death experiences while in uniform.
The trauma and experiences someone has while actively using drugs and alcohol can lead to PTSD. The vice versa is also true–PTSD is often handled by numbing the symptoms with mood and mind-altering substances, such as alcohol and drugs.
Though initially the individual may see or believe that there is no other way to make it through the day without using, with proper treatment he or she can recover from both the addiction and the symptoms of PTSD.
Empowering You With Knowledge
When an individual experiences two separate mental health issues simultaneously, he or she must treat both problems in order to recover from either. The term for co-existing mental health conditions is dual-diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
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PTSD Symptoms: Take Control of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Rehab
PTSD is a disorder that is associated with traumatizing events, extreme stress situations, and near-death experiences. Who will develop PTSD and why is still unknown. However, for those who already suffer from the disease, the answer to these questions does little good.
Symptoms of PTSD vary in intensity but some of the hallmark symptoms include flashbacks of the event, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, extreme anxiety, uncontrolled thoughts, nightmares, hostility, agitation, irritability, self-destructive behaviors, and isolation. These symptoms are also commonly seen with substance abuse and abuse of substances is common among sufferers of PTSD.
Sleep can be especially difficult between insomnia and nightmares. The eventual lack of sleep causes more problems while trying to cope with symptoms. It doesn’t take long before an individual can feel completely hopeless and helpless.
Those who experience the symptoms of PTSD commonly attempt to dull their symptoms with drugs and alcohol. It is no wonder why people make such choices. Alcohol seems like a great idea in the early morning hours to help get to sleep. Pills might seem like the logical choice to handle constant anxiety and hyper-vigilance.
PTSD Treatment: Knowing Your Options Encourages Long-Term Recovery
The number-one rule for treating PTSD seems to be that everyone is different. The most commonly used treatments are talk therapy and medication.
Talk therapy can be greatly beneficial and the effects are long-term. Talk therapy can help get to the root of the problem and work to find a healthy solution for dealing with symptoms.
Another psychological treatment that has shown particular success in treating people with PTSD is EMDR. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing and is a form of therapy that helps people recover control and essentially refile the traumatic event in a way that is no longer distressing.
Medications can also help treat PTSD. Ideally, those who use medications for the treatment of PTSD should combine the medications with EMDR, talk therapy or another long-term solution to their distressing condition.
The medications that are commonly used are antidepressants with others that treat symptoms directly, such as sleep medication for insomnia.
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Self-Medicating a Disorder like PTSD
The problem with treating a mental health condition with mood and mind-altering substances is that those who suffer from a mental illness are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. Adding an addictive substance to the mix often results in more problems that the person started with.
Some of the more addictive substances prescribed to treat PTSD are benzodiazepines, sleeping pills and anything that is short acting and potent. People can quickly develop a physical addiction or a mental addiction, where they believe they cannot function without the substance.
Many people who struggle with the symptoms of PTSD turn to depressants like alcohol and opioids. As these substances only temporarily affect reality, the root problem is not affected positively and the substances often lead to addiction and substance abuse issues.
As a person becomes addicted, the addiction itself produces trauma which can ultimately complicate and worsen the person’s PTSD. The more he or she uses, the greater the trauma and the more he or she may use to numb the emotional and psychological pain.
People who find themselves addicted to drugs and alcohol may wind up in situations that are unsafe. Drug deals gone wrong, drugging incidents and assault are, unfortunately, fairly common occurrences.
Dual-Diagnosis: PTSD & Addiction
Whenever an individual suffers from two distinct mental illnesses at the same time, he or she is said to have co-occurring disorders or dual-diagnosis. This term is often exclusively used by the mental health field as treating such an individual requires a comprehensive approach.
When the two disorders feed off each other and potentially worsen each other as addiction and PTSD do, the need for intensive inpatient treatment is paramount. People with either disorder require professional treatment, however, when the two are combined the necessary treatment may be longer and more intense than for either alone. Treating these disorders requires a simultaneous and intensive treatment plan that takes all variations and individual needs of the person into account.
No one deserves to suffer from such jarring mental illnesses as PTSD, or addiction, however many people struggle with one or both conditions. The reality is that the only way to recover is through treatment, which combines individual and group therapy with homeopathic and modern medical techniques to bring the most healing possible to the individual.
No matter how severe the case, or how long one has struggled with their condition, there is hope and help is available.
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65% of recovering addicts have a co-occurring disorder and a substance abuse disorder.
Effectively Treating Co-Occurring Disorders
Drug and alcohol abuse treatment is typically individualized and addresses the patient’s reasons for using. When a patient is struggling with co-occurring disorders and a substance abuse addiction, often the mental health disorder convinces the individual that their drug abuse is necessary for managing the symptoms associated with the mental health disorder.
Only by simultaneously treating both, can the person’s perceived need for using be removed and the person have a fair chance at long lasting recovery. To further explain the situation, if the individual’s mental health disorder is not addressed, the person is more likely to relapse on his or her drug of choice in the future.
When someone enters drug and alcohol rehab, they are provided a treatment plan as a tool to address the individual’s concerns. When those concerns include mental health issues the person’s treatment plan must reflect how these issues will also be addressed. Successful treatment improves patients’ quality of life through their recovery process. We can help you find a recovery programs that offers individualized treatment plans that address both co-occurring disorders and substance abuse addictions.
Aftercare for Co-Occurring Disorders and Substance Abuse Addictions
When a patient with co-occurring disorders completes a drug and alcohol treatment program, that person’s road to recovery doesn’t end. Substance abuse and mental health disorders cannot be cured with a pill, the individual will have to overcome triggers to use and abuse every day of their life. An effective drug and alcohol treatment will provide the patients with tools or healthy coping mechanisms that they can use through-out their life in recovery. Strong support systems for aftercare is a great example.
Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery are available to anyone with a substance use disorder and co-occurring disorders. Additionally, groups such as Double Trouble Recovery and Dual Diagnosis Anonymous offer additional support specifically for someone with co-occurring disorders.
The individual should also seek professional help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health therapist to ensure that their mental disorder is managed and the patient has confidence in themselves to manage both their substance abuse addiction and co-occurring disorders. This professional should have experience working with co-occurring disorders, so don’t be afraid to ask questions about the professional’s experience and credentials.
A psychiatrist can prescribe medication, whereas a psychologist cannot. Psychologists deal more with psychotherapy. A mental health therapist can do neither, however can offer counseling for daily and emotional problems. Supporting someone with co-occurring disorders means being aware of both problems and how they relate to each other.
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Reliable Sources You Can Trust
At A Better Today Recovery Services, we believe that the research you do will directly impact you or your loved one’s future. That is why it is important to us that we provide you with reputable resources to make these types of important decisions. We have crafted all our information, individualized treatment plans, practices, and reported substance abuse data on reliable resources.
Our sources are not funded by organizations that could benefit from favorable outcomes, and proven or tested to be effective in the psychology or scientific community. Below are the sources that we used, and we hope it helps you and your loved one just as much as it helped us. We want to continue to provide you with reputable sources that are up to date and relevant.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons With Co-occurring Disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 42. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 133992. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2005.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Pharmacologic Guidelines for Treating Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Opioid Use Disorders. HHS Publication No. SMA-12-4688, Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 4, Screening and Assessment. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207188/