How Do Drug Addiction and PTSD Relate?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, often goes hand-in-hand with drug and alcohol addiction. But does PTSD lead to addiction, or do addicts have traumatic experiences that cause PTSD and fuel further addiction?

It’s hard to say which causes the other, but it’s a fact that PTSD and alcohol or drug addiction are often found in the same person. Addiction is a complex disease, and it’s often caused by multiple factors. These factors make identifying and treating the causes of addiction difficult, which is why it’s important to find a holistic drug and alcohol rehab center if you struggle with addiction.

PTSD and Addiction Statistics

Because many veterans suffer from PTSD, many of the PTSD and addiction statistics available come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The following statistics reveal the connection between the two disorders.

  • 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD also suffer from an addiction.
  • 1 out of every 3 veterans seeking help for drug or alcohol addiction also has PTSD.
  • Among veterans, PTSD and alcohol addiction tend to manifest as binge-drinking episodes, perhaps to suppress the trauma of combat memories.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that 6 out of 10 people seeking help for drug abuse also suffer from one or more additional mental disorders.

Addiction Sometimes Leads to PTSD

While PTSD may cause some people to reach for drugs or alcohol to suppress memories, there’s also evidence to suggest that addictive behaviors can lead to PTSD.  For example, drug addicts who see a friend overdose and die may suffer from traumatic memories surrounding the event. Rape and other violent crimes often occur while people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Rather than lessening feelings of guilt, many addicts find these traumatic memories haunt them as PTSD-related symptoms for years. In turn, they reach for their substance of choice to suppress memories, further putting themselves in danger. It is only by facing the memories during recovery that they can truly be free from the effects of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD and Addiction

People suffering from both PTSD and addiction often present a mixture of symptoms. These include:

  • Chronic illnesses — Chronic liver or kidney disease may be a sign of hidden drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Depression — PTSD and anxiety can express symptoms as depression. Alcohol and certain drugs are central nervous system depressants which can exacerbate depression.
  • Insomnia — Flashbacks to the original traumatic incident can lead to sleepless nights. So can drugs used to forget about the flashbacks.

Although drugs and alcohol can temporarily relieve PTSD symptoms, they may cause new and worsening symptoms until treatment is sought.

Dealing With Both PTSD and Addiction

For many years, doctors thought that addicts had to get and remain sober before tackling their psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, most addiction and recovery specialists recognize that it’s not easy to separate one from the other.

Addiction is never cut-and-dry. It’s usually caused by a tangled web of genetic, familial and societal influences that intersect with an individual’s unique personality to push them from casual use into addiction. PTSD may be one of many factors leading to or influencing addictive behaviors. It may be more difficult for an addict to get sober before he deals with his PTSD than while undergoing treatment for addiction.

PTSD and Addiction Treatment Centers

Because of the complex nature of addiction and recovery, some rehab centers are now PTSD and addiction treatment centers. Rehab centers like 12 Keys offer treatment for both disorders in one location.  By addressing PTSD causes and symptoms, PTSD and addiction treatment centers can reduce the need for drugs and alcohol by healing one of the root causes of addiction.

Each PTSD and addiction treatment center differs in its approach to recovery. At 12 Keys Rehab, a personalized approach to recovery means that each client is treated as an individual. A low client-to-counselor ratio ensures that each person receives plenty of individual attention. There are no cookie-cutter approaches to recovery. Each person’s physical, mental, spiritual and family situations are taken into account as a holistic recovery program is created for them.

Get Help for PTSD and Addiction

If you suspect PTSD is at the root of your drug or alcohol addiction, help is available at 12 Keys Rehab. You can get help for PTSD and addiction by contacting our compassionate staff members today — we’re available 24/7 to answer your questions and help you embark on the road to recovery.

12 Keys Rehab offers a serene setting for recovery. Our staff includes recovered addicts and alcoholics who understand the recovery process and both model and guide you through it.  Personal attention, with specialized treatment for PTSD and other disorders can help you recover.  Contact us today.

The Addiction Blog