Man worried about the connection between PTSD and substance abuse

What is The Connection Between PTSD and Substance Abuse?

Up to two-thirds of people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have an addiction as a co-occurring disorder. The connection between PTSD and substance abuse is well-known in the mental health community. In fact, people struggling with PTSD are four times more likely to develop addictions than peers without mental health problems.

If you or someone you care about struggles with PTSD and substance abuse, you may seek help from a dual diagnosis treatment center. Co-occurring disorders need to be treated precisely and simultaneously. However, if your PTSD case doesn’t involve co-occurring addiction or substance abuse behaviors, you may find that a trauma PTSD treatment program is more accessible. Promises Behavioral Health provides both forms of specialized care. Call 844.875.5609 to speak with someone from our caring and compassionate team about the connection between trauma and substance abuse and how our programs and services can help.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a condition resulting from the prolonged reaction to having endured stress and trauma. About seven percent of Americans experience PTSD at some point in their lives. This mental health condition occurs after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening or highly traumatic event or situation due to the “fight or flight” response humans go through when they feel powerless or unsafe.

The “fight or flight” response serves people well in an emergency. It changes the brain’s chemical levels, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and body temperature. As a result, people in emergencies experience heightened attention and focus with a rush of adrenaline. This process makes them alert, awake, and ready to act or escape.

Causes of Trauma

PTSD takes hold when these physical reactions do not subside after the danger passes. You may first notice PTSD symptoms only weeks or months after the traumatic event or situation or as long as several years later. Common traumatic events leading to PTSD include:

  • A loved one’s death
  • Automobile accidents
  • Combat experience
  • Crime victimization
  • Natural disasters
  • Physical injuries

Someone struggling with PTSD may also have witnessed traumatic events and situations happening to other people or may have childhood trauma.

Symptoms of PTSD

A diagnosis of PTSD comes from symptoms interfering with everyday life. These symptoms include avoidance of people, places, or things that are reminders of the trauma. Other signs of PTSD include:

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Edginess
  • Flashbacks
  • Guilt
  • Lost interest
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems

If the symptoms continue for at least one month, mental health professionals may give a diagnosis of the disorder.

What Is the Connection Between Trauma and Substance Abuse?

Many people struggling with unresolved trauma or PTSD resort to substance abuse to ease their troublesome symptoms. The connection between PTSD and substance abuse is far more common than most people think. Substance abuse in these cases can lead to addiction, resulting in a dual diagnosis case where PTSD and addiction co-occur.

Unfortunately, self-medication by using drugs or alcohol only feels good for a little while. Soon, after tolerance and dependence develop, daily life involves a more significant and dramatic struggle with symptoms of PTSD and addiction. Fortunately, many mental health centers now offer dual diagnosis treatment for cases like this.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Trauma, PTSD, and Substance Abuse

Dual diagnosis treatment for trauma, PTSD and substance abuse is a specialized form of care that combines evidence-based psychotherapy with addiction treatment. It is designed to help individuals with dual diagnoses—simultaneous disorders such as depression and drug or alcohol use—to better manage their mental health and substance use issues. The approach helps an individual recognize how past trauma can increase the risk for addiction and vice versa, allowing them to develop more effective coping skills.

Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on both mental health and substance use disorders, taking into account biological, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual factors that may be at play. A variety of therapeutic modalities are used in dual diagnosis including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, art therapy, and music therapy to name a few. Treatments are tailored to the individual’s needs and may include family therapy and/or group support services.

Dual diagnosis treatment may include the following:

  • Continued care
  • Day treatment
  • Medical detox
  • Inpatient rehab
  • Intensive outpatient program

If you or someone you care about is struggling with the connection between trauma and substance abuse, consider professional help.

Learn More About the Connection between PTSD and Substance Abuse at Promises Behavioral Health

Promises Behavioral Health understands the cycle of PTSD and substance abuse. With the help of our caring and compassionate team, our clients learn how to stop using drugs in self-medication and how to build a better life. Learn more about dual diagnosis treatment at Promises Behavioral Health by calling 844.875.5609 or reaching out online.

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