Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction or Alcoholism

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that is often closely associated with drug addiction and alcoholism. PTSD is a reactionary disorder that develops after a person is subjected to a severely stressful event such as the death of a loved one or a violent assault. PTSD actually develops in response to this stress as a means of coping with it. Unfortunately, most people who use drugs or alcohol do so for the same reason; to escape some type of stress or trauma. Consequently, these two conditions occur together frequently and complicate treatment efforts that are further hampered by high relapse rates among addicted individuals who have more than one diagnosis. Fortunately, treatment is available that can be successful in treating both PTSD and addiction.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been brought to the public’s attention largely by war movies that portray soldiers and sailors who suffer from this disorder. It’s not ironic that many of these films discuss the alcoholism or drug addiction of such afflicted soldiers. However, PTSD can be caused by a number of non-military traumatic events. This can include witnessing, being involved in (generally as a victim) or suffering through the loss of a loved one via violent death or suicide, heavy trauma due to vehicular or industrial accidents, rape and sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse, and other extremely stressful situations.

According to Dual Diagnosis.ORG; “When an individual experiences a traumatic event, his brain creates a large amount of endorphins as a way of coping with stress of the moment. When the event is over, the body goes through a kind of “endorphin withdrawal”, which carries many of the same symptoms as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Many of those with PTSD will turn to alcohol as a means of replacing the feelings brought on endorphin withdrawal.” (1) This means that the relationship between the endorphins released and subsequent acute withdrawal syndrome during PTSD episodes and drug use are strikingly similar, perhaps explaining the frequent simultaneous occurrence of the two.

In a report that studied the relationship between sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder and addiction or alcoholism, the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stated;

“People with PTSD are more likely than others with similar backgrounds to have alcohol use disorders both before and after being diagnosed with PTSD, and people with alcohol use disorders often also have PTSD. Being diagnosed with PTSD increases the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.” (2)

The relationship between traumatic events and the occurrence of disease is one that has been studied extensively. Behaviorists, psychologists and psychiatrists have long recognized the associations between people who have suffered sexual or physical abuse, been involved in combat or had someone close to them die violently, and drug use or alcoholism. This is especially true when it comes to PTSD, as evidenced by the cost of addiction treatment for those who suffer from this disorder:

“. . . PTSD patients incurred an average cost of $4,042 in a 6-month period versus $780 for non-PTSD patients. Relative to non-PTSD patients, PTSD patients incurred an additional $3,262 for inpatient addiction treatment in the span of 6 months.” (3) These figures show that PTSD and addiction is a problem that has a significant economic impact on the public health system.

Thankfully, effective treatment is available. Inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome treatment, Denial Management and various types of successful therapies and support networking can all provide a critical foundation for a life that is free from addiction. If you want to talk more about this with an addiction expert right now, all you have to do is call the number on the top of your screen. We’re here 24 hours per day and will consult with you confidentially, and at no cost. Call us now.

(1) Dual Diagnosis.ORG Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction
Accessed 08/26/2011

(2) National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD and Problems with Alcohol Use
Accessed 08/26/2011

(3) Pamela J. Brown, Robert L. Stout, Timothy Mueller Substance Use Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Comorbidity: Addiction and Psychiatric Treatment Rates Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies Brown University Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, June 1999 Vol. 13, No. 2, 115-122
Accessed 08/26/2011

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

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