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PTSD and Drug Addiction

Simultaneous PTSD and drug addiction is a substantial problem among women. PTSD and drug addiction, according to an emerging body of research, have been documented to have a very strong association with one another. In many cases, substance use begins after the exposure to trauma and the development of PTSD, thus making PTSD a glaring risk factor for drug abuse.

It is critical to intervene in order to help women who have suffered trauma, as it has been shown that women who witness or are exposed to a traumatic event and are clinically diagnosed with PTSD have a greater likelihood for developing drug and alcohol use disorders. Of individuals with PTSD and drug addiction, many meet the criteria for comorbid PTSD, meaning the PTSD has been diagnosed alongside another psychiatric disorder. Patients with substance abuse disorders tend to suffer from more severe PTSD symptoms than do PTSD patients without substance use disorders.

There are gender-specific risk factors, including but not limited to experiences of interpersonal trauma and violence, which underscore the need for tailored interventions for women in addiction treatment programs. An extremely high number of women that have sought treatment for PTSD and drug addiction have reported lifetime histories of sexual or physical assault, or both.
Helping Those Who Suffer from PTSD and Drug Addiction

Just as many factors were likely involved when a person begins to use drugs or alcohol, there are also mitigating circumstances that surround the recovery phase. A good addiction treatment center will know this and will appropriately incorporate those factors and their effects on both initial addiction and addiction recovery into its programs.

Two major factors that affect the addiction and recovery phases when it comes to treating PTSD and drug addiction are relapse and co-dependency. These factors more then likely played a role in the addiction process, and therefore they must be addressed in order to set up successful recovery from PTSD and drug addiction.

  • Relapse: When a relapse occurs, the person who is addicted to drugs could be reluctant to get back into an addiction recovery program. Some might even feel, mistakenly, that the treatment center that was used the first time may not be accepting of them again. This is not true of Safe Harbor Treatment Center for women. At Safe Harbor, we understand that relapse can and does happen and has always welcomed those who have relapsed to start the recovery process all over again at the same center they formerly used.
  • Co-dependency: Co-dependency can be and often is a huge factor in the addiction cycle. Because co-dependency often comes from the fact that the co-dependent person desires to feel needed, this can act as a barrier in the process of recovering from PTSD and drug addiction. A good addiction treatment center must address the matter of co-dependency with both individual and group therapy – which are both integrated into Safe Harbor’s Capella Treatment Center for women. Capella is designed to provide intensive recovery from the woman who is suffering from the grips of PTSD and drug addiction.

In order to be helpful to those who suffer from PTSD and drug addiction, those who are working with the person must be understanding of the fact that PTSD frequently co-occurs with depression, anxiety disorders, and alcohol or other substance abuse issues. People who experience the symptoms of PTSD must have support from physicians and health care providers. The likelihood of treatment success increases when these concurrent disorders are appropriately identified and treated in a safe and nurturing environment.

Studies show that successful detoxification of individuals trying to cope with PTSD and drug addiction will likely require inpatient admission to permit vigorous control of withdrawal and PTSD-related arousal symptoms. Studies also show that those who suffer from PTSD can improve with EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, or exposure therapy, in which the individual gradually and repeatedly relives the frightening experience under controlled conditions to help him or her work through the trauma.

Exposure therapy is thought to be one of the most effective ways to manage PTSD when conducted by a trained therapist. For example, recent studies have suggested that individuals with PTSD and comorbid cocaine addiction can be successfully treated with exposure therapy.

All of these methods and more are integrated into the program at Safe Harbor’s Capella Treatment Center for women whose lives have been affected by PTSD and drug addiction. What you will find at Safe Harbor is a place to heal and recover, and deal with the issues that have prevented both of those things from happening before.