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PTSD and Drug Abuse: A Vicious Cycle of Avoidance and Despair

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

What Is PTSD and What Does It Have to Do with Drug Abuse Rehab?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that affects individuals who have experienced some form of trauma. While it’s normal to experience elevated levels of stress associated with the fight-or-flight response during a dangerous or shocking event, those suffering from PTSD may experience fear and tension even during times of peace, sometimes long after the traumatic event has occurred.

This fight-or-flight response is a necessary and helpful reaction in times of danger; however, those who experience this response without the accompanying danger may become overwrought with stress, which can impact otherwise mundane aspects of everyday life.

In order to cope with the anxiety associated with PTSD, some individuals turn to drug abuse. For instance veterans, the population with which PTSD is most associated, have high overlapping incidence of PTSD and drug abuse. According to The National Center for PTSD, one out of three veterans with PTSD also struggles with some form of substance use disorder.

Problems Associated with Coinciding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Drug Misuse

For those struggling with both PTSD and substance use, physical and psychological problems can manifest themselves in different ways. Specifically, a combination of PTSD and drug misuse can cause:

  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep or failing to sleep soundly throughout the night. PTSD sufferers who have sleeping problems may resort to drugs or alcohol in order to fall asleep. Unfortunately, these substances can interfere with sleep quality and often result in poor overall rest.
  • Feelings of numbness or isolation. Those who suffer from PTSD already feel isolated and numb in everyday life. Drugs and alcohol can exacerbate these feelings, and can increase irritability and depression.
  • Continued avoidance. Most PTSD sufferers avoid places and people associated with bad memories. Drugs and alcohol enable the continued avoidance of things that trigger bad memories by promoting isolation and escapism.
  • Unhealthy distractions. Drugs and alcohol temporarily distract people from their problems. In the long term, however, distracting oneself through drug and alcohol use results in difficulty concentrating, poor productivity, and diminishes enjoyment in other parts of life.

Finding Help for PTSD and Drug or Alcohol Use

If your friend or loved one is struggling with a combination of PTSD and drug or alcohol use, help is available. RCA Westminster offers comprehensive drug abuse rehab treatment that’s designed to treat both co-occurring problems so that holistic, meaningful recovery is possible. For information on treatment options available in your area please see our location guide.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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