Published On: July 7, 2022|Categories: Addiction and Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Addiction|

Research has long demonstrated an undeniably strong correlation between trauma and substance abuse. In recent decades, the connection between trauma-related disorders and addiction has become even more prevalent.

When someone has witnessed or personally suffered from a traumatic event, they may experience a barrage of unwanted thoughts and feelings. Thus leading them to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to manage the pain of their trauma.

Rather than genuinely help them process and recover from the trauma, however, their substance use often spirals into abuse and then addiction, causing further and greater pain.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common in those who’ve suffered from a traumatic experience and they’re also statistically recognized to be highly likely to developing an addiction as a result of their PTSD.

Overdoses and substance-related deaths are becoming more common than ever before. This adding to the importance of not only being informed of the nature of abuse, but recognizing the signs of PTSD and substance abuse in yourself and the people around you, so as to seek treatment all the more quickly.

In this article, we’re going to break down the connection between PTSD and addiction.

Understanding PTSD and addiction

It’s common for people to turn to drugs and alcohol to attempt to cope with the intense and even crippling thoughts and emotions that come after a traumatic experience. 

Someone who has been traumatized might experience these mental symptoms:  

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Terror
  • Shame

They may also experience physical symptoms such as: 

  • Tremors
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dramatic weight gain
  • Panic attacks.

An individual may be reluctant to seek professional treatment for their trauma and find themselves overwhelmed by the aftermath, leading to substance abuse to numb the pain.

While drugs and alcohol might serve as a temporary distraction or brief form of pain relief, the effects of a substance are indeed only temporary, and can cause PTSD to intensify even further.

Statistics of PTSD and addiction

PTSD changes the chemistry in the brain, altering how we process fear and stress,  as well as how we react to perceived threats in ways that aren’t usually for the best. 

It’s no wonder that individuals struggling with PTSD turn to substances as an attempt to manage their nervous system; when operating in a constant fight or flight mode, you just want to relax.

Those who have been traumatized are much more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol than those who haven’t been.

Evidence shows that of all the individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event and developed PTSD in consequence, over 50 percent of them will abuse substances in an attempt to manage their psychological or physical stress.

The most common substances

While there are many different substances that people can and do use to self-medicate, when it comes to PTSD, certain substances are chosen more than others. 

Since individuals suffering from PTSD are primarily seeking numbing and pain-relieving substances. The majority of these patients seek out depressive substances such as alcohol and marijuana, rather than choose a substance that gives them a high.

Contact us for additional help

If you think you or a loved one might be suffering from PTSD or addiction, we’re here to help.

Our compassionate team here at Rehab After Work is dedicated to providing you with the highest level through every phase of your healing. 

We offer a variety of individual-centered recovery programs to choose from, and we also offer treatment for dual-diagnosis for those struggling with PTSD and addiction simultaneously.

To learn more about how we can help you on your road to recovery, submit a form or give us a call today at 610-644-6464.

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