PTSD and Addiction 101

What is PTSD?

addiction and ptsdPTSD, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

What is Addiction?

According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary, an addiction is habitual psychological or physiologic dependence on a substance or practice that is beyond voluntary control. More specifically in the case of alcohol abuse, alcoholism is chronic alcohol abuse, dependence, or addiction; chronic excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages resulting in impairment of health or of social or occupational functioning, and increasing tolerance requiring increasing doses to achieve and sustain the desired effect. Symptoms of withdrawal may occur on sudden cessation of alcohol intake.

What happens when Addiction and PTSD co-exist?

It is not uncommon to come across an addict who also has PTSD. The common “poster child” for PTSD and addiction are our military veterans. Veterans with PTSD have experienced serious traumas during war or the nature of their job. In order to find an escape from the re-occurring event they often turn to drugs to numb the pain. Veterans are not the only individuals who can develop PTSD from a trauma. Individuals who have witness crimes, been a victim of a crime, rape, assault or life-threatening event can suffer severe psychological and emotional trauma. This trauma can cause them to start using and abusing drugs without have a biological pre-disposition or other risk factors. When the two co-exist in a person they can make one or the other worst. Their PTSD can trigger cravings to use and their addiction can heightened their sensory perceptions, anxiety and cause them to hallucination or lash out. There are PTSD and Addiction Rehabs available for these people who have both disorders.

What medications are available for PTSD?

The most common medications used to treat PTSD are antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. These medications act upon neurotransmitters related to the fear and anxiety circuitry of the brain including serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, and dopamine among many others. There is great interest in developing newer, more specific agents than are currently available to target the PTSD symptoms described earlier while also minimizing potential side effects of medications.

Studies show that a number of medications are helpful in minimizing the three symptom clusters of PTSD. Most of the time, medications do not entirely eliminate symptoms but provide a symptom reduction and are best used in conjunction with an ongoing program of trauma specific psychotherapy for patients such as PE or CPT.

What medications are available for an addiction?

There are some prescriptions available as maintenance program options like methadone for heroin but it’s not for everyone. The goal of PTSD and addiction rehabs are to detox and rehabilitate a person from drug use – and this includes the active use of medications and prescriptions. The addictive brain wants to use a mind or mood altering substance regardless of whether it’s their drug of choice of not so medications are prohibited. However, there are people with co-occurring mental disorders that require prescription medication for conditions such as PTSD, bi-polar or depression. Everyone is different and a medical doctor who specializes in addiction would be the best to consult on this matter.

PTSD and Addiction Rehab

Last year a team of Australian researchers found that PTSD symptoms improve when substance abuse treatment is added.  The researchers, from the University of New South Wales, enrolled 103 participants in their trial. All participants met the diagnostic criteria for both PTSD and substance abuse. The subjects were randomly selected to either receive both prolonged exposure therapy and treatment for substance abuse, or to only receive treatment for substance abuse.

At the nine-month mark, while both groups experienced reductions in PTSD symptoms, the subjects in the combined treatment group also showed a reduction in the severity of their PTSD symptoms without any increase in the severity of their substance abuse.

The best PTSD and Addiction Rehabs use this method in treating their patients that have both disorders.

If you or a loved one is in need of a PTSD and Addiction Rehab, we can help. Please contact FHE Health at 844-299-0618.



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