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Substance Abuse and PTSD

a person folds their hands in a dark room as they struggle with substance abuse and ptsd

It is normal to experience upsetting memories, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and other symptoms after a traumatic event. For most, symptoms gradually disappear over a relatively short period. For others, though, symptoms remain and may even get worse. Symptoms that worsen, last for one month or longer, and interfere with daily functioning can indicate PTSD.

PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a chronic mental health disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. PTSD impacts millions of people of all ages every year. When PTSD symptoms worsen, last for one month or longer, and interfere with daily functioning, it is time to seek help from a PTSD treatment program.

Evoke Wellness at Cohasset offers dual diagnosis treatment for substance abuse and PTSD, which often go hand-in-hand. Call 866.931.6429 to learn how we can help you or your loved one.

The Connection Between Substance Abuse and PTSD

The reasons some people develop PTSD and others don’t aren’t fully understood but are thought to be linked to genetics, personality, and environment. If you have PTSD or live with someone who does, it can feel like you’re always walking on eggshells, trying to avoid potential triggers.

There is a strong connection between substance abuse and PTSD, mainly because many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to alleviate their symptoms. Consider the following statistics that reinforce this connection:

  • Nearly half of people seeking PTSD treatment also have a substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Conversely, approximately half of the people seeking SUD treatment have PTSD
  • People with PTSD are significantly more likely than the general population to have alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • A majority of women in SUD treatment have histories of trauma related to physical or sexual abuse
  • A majority of veterans with PTSD have co-occurring SUD

While substance use allows those with PTSD to block unwanted or painful thoughts and feelings temporarily, over time, this becomes less effective, and higher amounts of drugs or alcohol are needed to achieve the desired effects, thus beginning the cycle of addiction.

A Look at the Effects of Trauma

Trauma can have a wide range of effects that vary based on the nature of the trauma. Many experts believe that personality traits and other risk factors also impact the development of trauma and mental health disorders like PTSD.

Common effects of trauma include the following:

  • Intrusive thoughts – Individuals with trauma experience flashbacks, recurring and distressing memories, or nightmares related to the traumatic event.
  • Emotional distress – Trauma causes intense and persistent fear, sadness, guilt, shame, anger, or confusion. These feelings can often be unpredictable or exaggerated.
  • Avoidance – Trauma survivors tend to avoid people, places, objects, activities, or events that are reminders of the traumatic event and self-isolate.
  • Hypervigilance – Trauma can cause people to become excessively watchful or on guard and constantly scan the environment for threats or danger.
  • Hyperarousal – Individuals often constantly feel on edge, irritable, or jumpy and have sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, or exaggerated startle response.
  • Physical symptoms – Trauma is associated with headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, and a weakened immune system.

Unresolved trauma can impact relationships, leading to trust and intimacy issues or difficulty forming or maintaining connections. Substance abuse or addiction can compound the effects of trauma.

Find Help for Substance Abuse and PTSD at Evoke Wellness at Cohasset

Often, individuals are aware that they are struggling with mental health and substance use issues but do not recognize that the source of these issues is unresolved trauma. The PTSD treatment program at Evoke Wellness at Cohasset helps patients understand the complete picture and provides a path to healing.

Residential treatment for substance abuse and PTSD allows patients to step away from the stressors of daily life and environmental factors that can trigger symptoms. Call 866.931.6429 to talk with an admissions counselor today or fill out our online form to learn more about dual diagnosis treatment for recovery from substance abuse and PTSD.