When someone experiences a life-threatening event, it is possible to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This condition can adversely affect their lives in many ways, but it can also open the door to a drug addiction. There are many theories as to why these two are so closely linked, and one of the top ones is that oftentimes, traumatic events leave the sufferer with an injury. After being prescribed painkillers, the victim may quickly realize that the drugs help relieve both their physical pain and symptoms of PTSD. This can lead to excessive self-medicating and eventually, addiction.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a mental health condition that occurs after someone experiences a life-threatening trauma. Some of the typical events that cause this disorder include:
– Physical or sexual abuse as a child
– Physical or sexual assault as an adult
– Accidents or natural disasters
– Terrorist attacks
Symptoms of PTSD
If you have experienced a traumatic event and are unsure if you are suffering from PTSD, there are four major symptoms to look for:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms: This occurs when the fear felt during the event comes back and is just as intense as it was the first time.
2. Avoidance symptoms: This includes minimizing close personal relationships or losing interest in previously enjoyed activities.
3. Numbing symptoms: This state of hypervigilance includes being easily startled and being unable to sleep or concentrate.
4. Arousal symptoms: This includes minimizing exposure to stimuli that trigger memories of the trauma (ie. not going by water after a near drowning).
How the Two are Connected
Researchers are still unsure if opioid misuse is a cause or consequence of PTSD. Regardless, there are several theories as to why addiction and PTSD are so closely linked.
- Susceptibility – It is possible that the brains of people who are susceptible to addiction are more susceptible to PTSD, as well.
- Shared vulnerability – Abusing drugs changes the brain in many ways, which increases the risk of developing mental health disorders like PTSD.
- Self-medicating – Those who suffer from PTSD use drugs to calm their symptoms.
- Risk theory – Those who abuse drugs can put themselves in dangerous situations and are at a greater risk of trauma because of those situations.
Dangers of Both Conditions
While one of these conditions – addiction or PTSD – can be an enormous struggle to overcome on its own, having both concurrently adds even more difficulty to the mix. Some of these additional risks include:
– Self-medicating: Because PTSD can be so overwhelming, sufferers are more likely to self-medicate and try to alleviate their psychological pain.
– Overdose potential: Opioids are an easy drug to overdose on. The recurring memories from PTSD can make the sufferer reach for more painkillers than necessary.
– Addiction development: Opioids are extremely addictive, even if they were originally prescribed by a physician for a simple injury. When PTSD is involved, it can be even easier to become addicted.
Find Treatment for Both
As both conditions are occurring together, treatment should be the same. Look for a facility that will provide treatment for both concurrently. These types of therapy will likely include:
1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy
2. Exposure Therapy
3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Get Help Today
The sooner you reach out for help, the faster the recovery process can start. Find a drug treatment facility that will offer therapies for both addiction and mental health issues such as PTSD. At Footprints Beachside Recovery, our trauma-informed care will provide the treatment you need. Contact us today to learn more about our professionals who are certified in trauma resolution therapies.
What the Rat Brain is Telling Neuroscientists about the Connection Between PTSD and Opioids. Accessed July 16 2018. www.brainfacts.org.