PTSD and Addiction: What You Need to Know

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PTSDIn honor of National PTSD Awareness Month this June, we’re dedicated this blog to post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. What are the risk factors of PTSD? What’s the relationship between PTSD and addiction? How can you or someone you love get help? These are a few of the questions we’ll address below.

Let’s start by talking about PTSD. It can happen to anyone – not just veterans – and it’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, roughly 7 or 8 out of every 100 people will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, notes the National Center for PTSD. It can impact veterans and civilians who have experienced or even witnessed a traumatic event, including physical or sexual assault, abuse, accident, disaster or many other serious events.

While painful memories, thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event are common, for people with PTSD, these memories, thoughts and feelings don’t fade – and can last for months or even years, according to the National Center for PTSD. Mental health experts aren’t sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not. They do know, however that personal factors like previous traumatic exposure, age and gender play a role. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. For example, stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of overlap between addiction and PTSD, with nearly 50 percent of people with PTSD also meeting the criteria for substance use disorder. Many people mistakenly drink or do drugs to numb their feelings or better cope with symptoms of PTSD like insomnia, traumatic dreams, mood disturbances and/or extreme emotions. But PTSD and substance abuse don’t mix. In fact, self-medicating can worsen symptoms and make life even less manageable.

Treating PTSD and Addiction
Luckily, proper treatment can help people with PTSD to recover in a healthy and positive way. At NorthStar Transition, our continuum of care provides the support individuals with co-occurring PTSD and addiction need to succeed at living a full, productive and sober life. To learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment, call today: 303-558-6400.