PTSD and Addiction

PTSD and Addiction

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The Link Between PTSD and Addiction

The deep-seated emotional effects of having experienced a life-altering trauma will often result in the use of coping techniques to help soothe the pain.  Those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a particularly difficult journey, as the pain and suffering connected to the traumatic event or events lingers, often causing debilitating anxiety and depression that can result in using drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. The link between PTSD and addiction is a common one.  In fact, according to a 2012 article published in Current Psychiatry Reports [Berenz and Coffey], approximately half of those receiving treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction meet diagnostic criteria for co-occurring PTSD.

About PTSD

When someone is exposed to a shocking, dangerous, or frightening experience the body will instantly release the hormone adrenaline, which causes the fight-or-flight response to kick in.  Our brains are wired to tell us to flee or do battle in order to survive a threatening event.  While most people will eventually overcome the shock and emotional effects of a traumatic event, some will continue to suffer the after effects, re-experiencing this fight-or-flight response ongoingly.

PTSD is the condition that reflects an individual being emotionally “stuck” in the trauma.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the diagnostic criteria that define PTSD include the following symptoms lasting at least one month:

  • A minimum of one re-experiencing symptom, such as flashbacks, nightmares, or recurrent frightening thoughts
  • A minimum of one avoidance symptom, such as avoiding places, events, or things that remind the individual of the trauma, or attempts to block thoughts and feelings related to the trauma
  • A minimum of two arousal and reactivity symptoms, such as being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge, sleep disturbances, and angry outbursts
  • A minimum of two cognition and mood symptoms, such as difficulty remembering details of the traumatic event, negative thoughts about self or the world, inappropriate feelings of blame or guilt, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

The Relationship Between PTSD and Addiction

Those who suffer the ongoing symptoms associated with severe trauma may look toward drugs or alcohol to help them manage the emotional pain they live with.  The daily symptoms, such as a chronic sense of irritability or edginess, insomnia, anger, and feelings of guilt are hard to bear.  Using alcohol or drugs to numb the emotional pain or to promote relaxation or sleep is a common coping mechanism.

Addiction develops when tolerance to the substance continues to ratchet up, leading to more frequent and higher dosing of the substance.  The brain chemistry changes in response to the influx of chemicals of the substance of abuse, impacting the natural neurotransmitters and hijacking the brain’s normal responses and messaging.  Over time, the brain adjusts to the constant dosing of the substance, demanding it.  This process, chemical addiction, leaves the individual with not only the haunting effects of the trauma, but addicted to the substance as well.  This combination of disorders is known as a dual diagnosis, a mental health disorder coupled with a substance use disorder.

Treatment for Co-Occurring PTSD and Addiction

To treat the client with both PTSD and a co-existing drug or alcohol addiction it is necessary to use an integrated approach.  Both disorders must be treated simultaneously for the best chances of sustained recovery, so a treatment program that offers dual diagnosis treatment is essential, starting with a medical detox.

In addition to the addiction treatment elements that include detox and withdrawal, individual and group counseling (using cognitive behavioral therapy), addiction education, antidepressant drug therapy, relapse prevention planning, and medically assisted treatment (optionally), treating the PTSD piece relies on specialized therapy.  Exposure therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic intervention that slowly desensitizes the individual to the person, place, or object associated with the trauma through exposure.  Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another therapy that has been used successfully to treat PTSD.  In EMDR the therapist will use movements that the patient follows with their eyes while the therapist has them recall the traumatic event, eventually weakening the impact of the negative thoughts and memories.

Capo By the Sea Offers Treatment for PTSD and Addiction

Capo By the Sea is a leading dual diagnosis provider of both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs, located in beautiful Southern California.  Treating a dual diagnosis of PTSD and addiction is a specialty provided by the expert clinical staff at Capo By the Sea.  Each client is given a customized alcohol and drug treatment plan, addressing the unique features of the individual’s diagnostic needs and improving recovery success.  For more information about our dual diagnosis program, please contact Capo By the Sea today at (800) 300-3965.

The Top 3 Excuses to Ignore Addiction

Man with beer

And why you can’t use them anymore

Maybe you’ve taken the first step in combating addictive illness — recognizing there’s a problem. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you realize you struggle with the disease of alcoholism, or are unable to control your cravings for dangerous drugs. But if you’re putting off addressing it, it can be just as dangerous as not acknowledging the issue at all. Read on to find the top three excuses to ignore your addiction — and why you can never use them again.

I don’t have time

If you think you don’t have time to combat your addiction, or attend an executive recovery program, it’s highly recommended you take a second look. The truth is, you don’t have time not to combat it. If your cardiologist said you needed emergency surgery or you were at high risk for a heart attack, you’d schedule the surgery as soon as possible. If you had a broken leg that needed immediate treatment, you’d tell the doctor to get you a cast ASAP. Just because addiction seems to be invisible doesn’t mean it’s any less of a serious illness – one you need to make time to treat.

It’s not really that bad

“It’s not really that bad” and “I can handle it” are all offshoots of the “I don’t really have a problem” excuse. Like wolves dressed up in sheeps’ clothing, it’s your addiction telling you lies so it can continue running your life. You may tell yourself you have more important things to do than attend an executive recovery program – work more hours, for example, or deal with family issues. But addictive illness is degenerative, and if left untreated, can reach a critical point quickly. If you wait, there’s a chance you may not have a job, a family, or even a life to go back to.

I’ll get to it later

The sad and shocking part of addictive illness is that there may not be a “later.” For instance, all it takes is one drink too many behind the wheel to cause a fatal car accident. The last injection of an illegal drug could be the one that results in an overdose. When it comes to addiction, there’s not a moment to lose: you need to seek help now.

No more excuses: contact our intake counselors today, and let Capo by the Sea’s executive recovery help you.

(photo: prostophotos)


How Healthy Living Can Fight Addiction

Woman on beach

Learn why you need a healthy lifestyle to stay off drugs and alcohol

If you’re attending a luxury rehab or other program to combat addictive illness, you’ve taken an enormous step towards a longer, healthier life. After all, nothing will steal your well-being faster than the degenerative nature of drug and alcohol dependency. But there are other steps you can take to maintain your newfound lifestyle that will continue to keep you in shape for years – both mentally and physically.

Eat the right foods

Good nutrition keeps you alert, energized, and well enough to resist the temptations of drugs and alcohol. Everyone has done something they wish they hadn’t when they were hungry and irritable, but by maintaining good eating habits, you can minimize the risk of this happening. Consider meeting with a nutritionist to develop a customized plan, and be sure to take any vitamins necessary. The assigned physician at your luxury rehab may be able to make recommendations for auxiliary practitioners, such as registered dieticians.

Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of problems, especially if you have an addictive illness. Arrange your schedule so that you get an adequate amount of sleep. Otherwise, you may be prone to stress, poor decision-making, and getting sick or run down. A luxury rehab is a great place to learn good sleep habits, as your private room will be both comfortable and relaxing.

Relieve stress

Don’t forget to engage in stress-relieving activities such as yoga or other forms of exercise. In addition to providing an emotional and physical outlet for everyday frustration, exercise boosts “feel good” endorphins in your brain. For example, this is part of the frequently described “runner’s high” – a safe and legal way to enjoy yourself. Spending time outdoors in the sun is a proven mood booster, so consider a luxury rehab that has beach access and waterfront activities.

Start living healthy today

Our luxury rehab can get you started on the road to a healthier life. After beginning with our detox program, you may transition to an inpatient setting to treat addiction to drugs or alcohol. Located in the beautiful beach resort city of Dana Point, Capo by the Sea is a tranquil, peaceful facility about an hour south of Los Angeles. Enjoy our restful private rooms, outdoor activities, and other healthful tools to conquer addiction once and for all.

(photo: 666ismoney)