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Substance Abuse Problems and PTSD: How to Stop the Cycle

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US Veteran in camo sits at left struggling with PTSD treatment flag at right and Destination Hope logo at bottom right

PTSD & Substance Abuse: A Dangerous Duo

Substance abuse can occur because of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition that occurs after a person experiences some type of traumatic event. Further, individuals are more likely put themselves in situations that may ultimately cause PTSD because of their substance abuse. War, terrorism, abuse, natural disasters, and assault are examples of events that can contribute to the development or worsening of PTSD. Regardless of its cause, trauma is not uncommon among Americans. One survey showed that over 50 percent of women and 60 percent of men reported at least one traumatic incident in their past.

The connection between trauma and addiction is strong, and it runs both ways: the experience of trauma increases the likelihood of developing an addiction, and substance abuse can make a person more likely to suffer some form of trauma. Unfortunately, we see a significant number of clients suffering from both PTSD and substance abuse problems, a condition referred to as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.

Who Develops PTSD?

A person usually develops PTSD symptoms within a few months of experiencing the traumatic event, but there are cases where it has taken months or even years to develop. Flashbacks about the event, inability to concentrate, memory problems, insomnia, anger, irritability, and self-destructive behavior are some of the common symptoms of this condition.

Anyone can develop PTSD, but it is more common in females. It is also more common in people with a history of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, people who have a family history of mental health problems are more likely to develop PTSD. One study reveals that up to 80 percent of women who enter substance abuse treatment have suffered a physical or sexual assault at some point, while another study showed that at least 2 out of 10 veterans who struggle with substance abuse also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

See also  Five Keys to Effective Substance Abuse Services

Unfortunately, many people who have PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their emotions. The good news is that there are a number of steps to treat and prevent substance abuse problems.

Preventing Substance Abuse

 Medication & Counseling: A combination of anti-anxiety/depressant medications and counseling can help a person cope with feelings of stress and anxiety. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to try to cope with anxiety and depression instead of turning to a behavioral health professional.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended for people who have PTSD. This form of therapy helps people understand how their thoughts can influence their feeling and behaviors and is effective for both mental health and substance abuse problems.


Every case of PTSD and addiction is different, so it is important to have an individualized treatment planfrom clinical professionals. Because of the strong link between trauma and addiction, it’s critical that we take a sensitive and compassionate approach to each client’s treatment.

Typical treatment programs can be a minefield of potential triggers for a person who has suffered trauma. A trauma-informed approach to addiction goes beyond addressing substance abuse; it acknowledges the lingering effects of trauma and offers a safe environment that promotes healing.

Remember that recovery from addiction and alcohol abuse treatment means learning how to cope with intensely emotional situations and identifying when you need help and support.  Treatment for addiction relapse, counseling, and proper aftercare can all help you do this, so please call us today. Destination Hopeis a full-service addiction treatment facility in Florida for people who suffer from substance abuse and behavioral health issues.

See also  Substance Abuse: America’s Problem

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