The Correlation Between PTSD and Addiction

There’s a strong link between trauma, PTSD and addiction.

Those who are exposed to and directly experience traumatic events often turn to drugs and alcohol as an attempt to cope with the intense feelings and thoughts that come after the trauma. 

Guilt, shame, anxiety, depression and terror are some of the most common effects that follow a traumatic experience, and for many, they can be all-consuming and even feel crushing, to the point of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a serious psychiatric disorder that can keep you stuck in a vicious cycle of reliving the trauma, therefore escalating substance use to an addiction. This, in turn, habitually produces new trauma; or triggers a mental illness, causing the PTSD to become even more severe, and again leading to increased substance use. 

Just as trauma and substance abuse frequently go together, so do trauma-induced disorders and addiction. Both of which result as a way to try and cope with the unhealed physical or mental wounds the individual has succumbed to.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into the relationship between PTSD and addiction.

Understanding PTSD and addiction

PTSD and addiction regularly coincide with one another. Those struggling with PTSD often develop substance abuse problems as a way to try and cope with the mental and physical distress that commonly follows exposure to, or directly experiencing trauma.

The majority of those living with the aftermath of trauma typically experience regular phases of intense floods of emotion that can escalate into PTSD when left unaddressed.

PTSD can produce a wide range of effects on the individual, spanning from mood swings all the way to violent behavior. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of numbing their experience and what has come after.

While substances may briefly distract and provide temporary relief for the pain and stress a traumatized individual is suffering from, it is only temporary.

Breaking down the statistics

PTSD alters our brain chemistry, from our fear and stress receptors, to our ability to detect and react to threats. As a result, an individual’s entire world changes because how they see the world has entirely changed.

While there are many different reasons and causes that lead someone to develop a substance use disorder. Those who have been traumatized are much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who haven’t.

In fact, the majority of evidence proves that of those diagnosed with PTSD, over 50 percent of them will develop a substance use disorder as a way of self-medicating for their pain.

Common substances of choice

People use a wide variety of substances for many different reasons, but research shows that when it comes to individuals suffering from PTSD, there are certain substances that are used more than others.

With PTSD leading the majority of patients to seek out numbing or pain-relieving substances, these people are primarily seeking out depressive substances rather than looking for a high.

Alcohol and marijuana are the two most common substances when self-medicating for PTSD, due to their ability to numb a person’s senses. Which, for those who have developed hyper-awareness due to trauma, can act as temporary relief.

Reach out for help

If you think that you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, PTSD or a combination of these disorders, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

At Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling, your recovery is our top priority. We offer a variety of patient-based treatment plans for substance use disorder that we commit to personalizing for your exact situation and needs.
You can speak with one of our qualified admissions navigators today by submitting one of these forms or calling our office anytime at 800-809-2925.