December 27, 2023

PTSD and Addiction: What’s The Connection?

A man stares out the window thinking about the connections between Post traumatic stress disorder and addiction

Individuals diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) face a threefold higher likelihood of engaging in substance abuse. The condition stems from traumatic experiences such as sexual assault, natural disasters, or near-death encounters. Seeking proper PTSD treatment is essential for effectively managing symptoms and preventing reliance on detrimental coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse. This guide highlights awareness about the interconnectedness of PTSD and addiction and shows you how to connect with evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction.

Addiction and PTSD have a complex, intertwined relationship. Several factors contribute to this link:

Coping mechanism

Individuals with PTSD may turn to substances as a way to cope with the distressing symptoms and overwhelming emotions associated with traumatic experiences. Drugs and alcohol may provide a temporary escape from intrusive memories, nightmares, and heightened anxiety.

Self-medication

Some people with PTSD engage in self-medication, using substances to alleviate the emotional pain and distress caused by trauma. Unfortunately, this can lead to a cycle of dependence, where the temporary relief offered by substances becomes a perceived necessity. Self-medication does nothing to address the underlying problem, while at the same time introducing the issue of substance abuse.

Brain chemistry

Trauma can alter brain chemistry, affecting neurotransmitters associated with mood regulation and stress response. Substance abuse further disrupts these neurotransmitter systems, contributing to a heightened risk of addiction.

Increased vulnerability

Individuals with PTSD may experience increased vulnerability to addiction due to the physiological and psychological impact of trauma. Factors such as altered stress response and impaired impulse control can contribute to a higher susceptibility to substance abuse.

Common risk factors

Post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction often share common risk factors, such as a history of trauma, family history of substance abuse, or pre-existing mental health conditions. These shared risk factors can create a predisposition for the co-occurrence of both disorders.

Understanding the link between PTSD and addiction is essential for developing effective treatment strategies. Addressing both conditions concurrently through integrated care that considers the interconnected nature of mental health and substance use disorders is often the most successful approach. It emphasizes comprehensive therapy, support networks, and coping skills to address both the trauma and the addictive behaviors.

A woman who looks sad, as she thinks about the link between Ptsd and drug addiction

PTSD and Addiction Recovery

Recovery from co-occurring PTSD and addiction involves a comprehensive and integrated approach that addresses both conditions simultaneously. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Seek treatment from professionals experienced in dual diagnosis, addressing both PTSD and addiction concurrently. Dual diagnosis treatment aims to understand the interplay between trauma and substance use, tailoring interventions to meet the unique needs of each individual.

Individualized care

Recognize the uniqueness of each individual’s experiences and tailor the recovery plan accordingly. Collaborate with treatment providers to create an individualized care plan that addresses specific PTSD symptoms, substance use patterns, and personal goals.

Trauma-informed therapy:

Engage in trauma-informed therapy, which recognizes the impact of trauma on mental health and substance use. Therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) can be effective in addressing both PTSD symptoms and addictive behaviors.

Supportive Networks:

Build a strong support network that includes friends, family, and peers who understand the challenges of both PTSD and addiction. Participate in group therapy or support groups specifically designed for individuals with dual diagnoses.

Holistic approaches

Explore holistic approaches to healing, including mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, which can promote overall well-being and aid in managing symptoms of both PTSD and addiction.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

In some cases, medication-assisted treatment may be considered, especially when addressing co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Work closely with healthcare professionals to determine the most suitable medications, considering both PTSD symptoms and addiction.

Relapse prevention

Develop a relapse prevention plan that addresses triggers related to both trauma and substance use. Learn healthy coping mechanisms to replace reliance on substances as a way of managing emotional distress.

Long-term support

Recovery from PTSD and addiction is an ongoing process that may require long-term support.

Continue participating in therapy, attending support groups, and maintaining a commitment to overall well-being.

By integrating comprehensive and personalized approaches to treatment, individuals can work towards lasting recovery from both PTSD and addiction. Embracing a holistic perspective that acknowledges the interconnected nature of these conditions can pave the way for a healthier and more fulfilling life.

Complex PTSD and Addiction

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder differs from PTSD in that it often arises from repeated and prolonged trauma, as opposed to a single traumatic event. Individuals with CPTSD may face unique challenges in relation to addiction. The enduring nature of complex trauma can contribute to a higher risk of developing coping mechanisms, including substance abuse, to manage ongoing distress. Addressing addiction in the context of CPTSD requires specialized and nuanced approaches that consider the complex and pervasive impact of repeated trauma on an individual’s mental health and well-being.

Alcohol Addiction and PTSD

The relationship between alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is notable, with individuals using alcohol as a means to cope with the symptoms of trauma. Alcohol’s sedative effects may temporarily alleviate anxiety and hyperarousal associated with PTSD. However, reliance on alcohol to manage these symptoms can lead to a dangerous cycle of dependence. Integrative treatment addressing both alcohol addiction and PTSD is crucial for sustainable recovery.

Drug Addiction and PTSD

PTSD and drug addiction often coexist, as individuals may turn to substances to numb emotional pain and distress resulting from trauma. The desire to escape intrusive memories and anxiety can drive the use of drugs. This intersection emphasizes the importance of comprehensive treatment strategies that simultaneously address substance use disorders and the underlying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Integrative care aims to break the cycle of addiction while fostering mental health and resilience.

An image of the Gratitude Lodge facility, where alcohol addiction treatment is available

Get Treatment for PTSD and Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

We treat all types of mood disorders, including PTSD, at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Choose from our rehab centers in Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA, when you are ready to move beyond a life constrained by addiction and mental health issues.

Engage with our supervised medical detox program to streamline the withdrawal process, mitigate complications, and reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. After a week or so, you can move into an ongoing inpatient program at our beachside treatment center.

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs deliver individualized treatment that draws from these interventions:

Call admissions at 888-861-1658 and begin your recovery from PTSD and addiction right away.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
people sit in treatment session representing 90 day alcohol rehab

Psychotherapy

An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.

Inpatient
Treatment

Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.