Most people when they hear Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they think of the brave men and women who have served our country in war, or veterans with PTSD. PTSD is just that, a condition that presents itself after a traumatic event that has happened. It can happen to anyone who survived or witnessed a traumatic event in their lifetime, not necessarily just veterans of war. Victims of physical or sexual abuse, disaster, accident, or any other serious event. Women are more likely to develop PTSD and genes can make people more likely to develop PTSD than others. About seven or eight people out of 100 people will develop PTSD at some point in their life, according to the National Center for PTSD. It can last for months or even years. Those who suffer with PTSD experience triggers that bring back memories of the traumatic event with physical and emotional reactions. They may experience depression, anxiety, flashbacks and/or nightmares of the event, and avoidance of triggers.
Substances Used by Veterans with PTSD
The American Psychiatric Association first added PTSD as a mental disorder in 1980. This makes it a relatively new disorder that many people had before and couldn’t understand. Many people who had and have PTSD tend to self medicate to lessen the effects of the disorder. Some people may have had an idea of what they had but chose to self medicate instead of actually getting diagnosed because they don’t want to associate themselves with the stigma of mental disorders. Some people just don’t want to deal with it. The most common substance abused in regards to PTSD is alcohol. According to the National Center of PTSD, 60 to 80% of Vietnam Veterans with PTSD, seeking treatment have alcohol use problems. Up to three quarters of abusive or violent trauma survivors report drinking problems and up to one third of traumatic accident, illness, and disaster survivors report drinking problems. PTSD and alcohol are often found together and it can be trouble for them and their family.
How Alcohol Addiction Affects Veterans with PTSD
Alcohol addiction and abuse on it’s own can lead to many difficult problems for the abuser and their family but using it with PTSD can make the symptoms even worse. “Medicating” with alcohol can make the depression worse, worsen anger, worsen the anxiety or feeling of being on guard, make it more difficult cope with and get through the traumatic memories, more isolated, and worsen the ability to sleep or the quality of it. In all actuality, avoiding the memories of the traumatic event can prolong the PTSD. The way that PTSD is treated is with different psychotherapies and possibly medications to help manage some of the symptoms. So if alcohol makes PTSD worse, why do so many people still use it? Alcohol lessens the traumatic memories, reduces awareness, makes inhibited people to socialize, and “helps” with insomnia. It reduces rational thought and are trying to escape the memories or nightmares since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol is a temporary solution. It doesn’t actually fix anything or make anything better, especially for veterans with PTSD.
Going through a traumatic event that is severe enough to cause PTSD is already difficult and to carry those memories and feelings around make it even more difficult. PTSD is the mind’s way of coping with what happened. It makes sense that people who have gone through this trauma want to put it in the past and forget about it but the reality is that they can’t. The only way to get past this is to confront it and work through it with the help of a professional psychiatrist. Abusing alcohol will only make angry people angrier, anxious people more suspicious, and reclusive people more withdrawn. Getting the right treatment will help make strides in recovery from PTSD.
Treatment for Addiction & PTSD
It is common for those who have been through psychological trauma to abuse drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Depending on the substance the user feels numb, empowered, or calm that they believe they cannot feel without the substance. They feel as though they need the drug to maintain some control in their lives. When substances are abused to manage PTSD symptoms, the symptoms only become more intense. Those addicts who also have PTSD may engage in more risky behavior that puts them and others in danger. As part of the psychological treatment at Recovery Ways, an integrated approach is used to teach patients that there is life outside the confines of drug addiction. Each patient is encouraged to be involved in social and spiritual activities that foster awareness of the world around them. By learning to cope with life, our patients are better able to manage their emotions and mood swings. With these under control, it’s easier to form a better outlook on life which, in turn, helps recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse. Trauma is most commonly treated with a combination of medication and therapy. As with all co-occurring disorders, trauma symptoms may be amplified when an addict begins the withdrawal process. If not properly treated, these patients can represent a serious threat to their own safety and the safety of others. The clinical staff at Recovery Ways is fully trained to support trauma clients and the specific challenges their disorder presents.
Are you a veteran with PTSD?
Recovery Ways, the premier drug rehab in Salt Lake City, can help treat your PTSD and addiction issues. Recovery Ways is a dual-diagnosis facility, which means we treat both addiction and mental health issues in the same setting. This greatly increase chances for long-term sobriety. If you’re ready to make a change and live a life free from addiction, please call 1-888-986-7848 or contact us here.