PTSD and Addiction Treatment

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When you are suffering from addiction and PTSD at the same time, it can be a confusing mix. You need to have the right support and help to get you through it. Even with a support group at home, having medical professionals at a dual diagnosis treatment center there to guide you and keep you safe can help. With a bit of research and the right idea of what you would like in a treatment center, you will be able to keep your health in line and get life back on track.

Overview of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a mental disorder that can occur when the individual is exposed to an event that is distressing or disturbing. While this diagnosis was traditionally given to soldiers after coming back from war, it can affect others who have gone through a big injury, sexual violence, and even having their life threatened.

The person doesn’t need to be the direct one experiencing the event to get PTSD, though they most likely are if they have this condition. They can sometimes witness the event, learn that there was some trauma that happened to someone close to them, like to a child, or find that they are a witness to other parts of the event.

The Symptoms of PTSD

There are different types of symptoms that the individual is going to face when they have PTSD. They can have intrusion symptoms, which means that they will have repeated dreams about the trauma, have flashbacks that make them relive the issue, and even some significant physical responses to the event, such as panic attacks. They may feel like they are trapped by involuntary memories about the event that will not go away.

There can also be symptoms of avoidance. This is where the person will avoid any of the external factors, like people, locations, and conversations, that will remind them of the traumatic event and can cause them to relive some of the issues that happened during that event. They will also try to avoid any of the memories and thoughts that are associated back with the trauma.

Many of those who are suffering from PTSD are going to have negative thought and mood changes. They will have negative beliefs about others or the world, start to have some amnesia about the traumatic event to try and repress it, lack of interest in activities and hobbies, and have trouble with lots of negative emotions while feeling detached from other people as they try to hide from some of the negative that happened in the event.

And finally, there are reactive symptoms that will show up. Many people who suffer from PTSD will have issues concentrating or they will have sleep problems. They will be hypervigilant against everything and can have an exaggerated response when they are startled. They will be angry and irritable, which will often be expressed as aggression and all of this comes together in the form of them using self-destructive behaviors.

Addiction and PTSD

There is a connection between those who have PTSD and addiction to different substances. Trauma is able to impact the brain in a negative way. A normal stress response is taken out of context and blown up, making it hard for the patient to figure out the right way to handle things. While all of us will go through stress at some point, most of us are able to turn off, or at least limit, the stress response. For those who are dealing with traumatic stress though, the stress will be there all the time.

Because of the impairment that happens in the brain of the person who is dealing with PTSD and all of the negative effects that tend to come from this disorder, many people will start to turn to drugs to help them feel better. Others will go to alcohol. No matter which substance they go with, the individual feels like the substance is going to help them feel better, though it can often make the situation worse and can result in the addiction.

There are many reasons why someone who is a victim to trauma will go and abuse a substance. These include:

  1. To help them fall asleep since trauma can make it hard to shut out the memories and go to bed.
  2. To help them have a way to avoid the traumatic memories or dreams that plague them.
  3. To forget about all of the problems they have and can’t seem to escape with.
  4. To help numb themselves from the emotions that seem really extreme.
  5. To deal with some of the mood changes that are happening during PTSD.

While the patient may feel like they are doing well with the substance helping them, abusing alcohol or drugs is just going to make the situation worse. They need to figure out how to drop the addiction and improve their lives. With the right treatment for PTSD and addiction, you will be able to work with a treatment center to take over the addiction and get your life back on track.

PTSD and Addiction Treatment

If you are dealing with an addiction to drugs and you have PTSD at the same time, it is critical that you seek out a treatment center that is able to specialize in a dual diagnosis. This basically means that they will be able to work through both conditions at the same time, rather than just one and ignoring some of the major issues that are going on. For the patient to get better, they need to work through both conditions at once.

The nice thing about PTSD and addiction treatment is that the medical professionals in those treatment centers will be able to create a plan that is personalized to the patient and will help them address the addiction and the PTSD at the same time. All recovery programs are going to be a little bit different though so it is important to do some research and figure out which one is right for you.

There are different types of treatment programs that the patient is able to choose. Some of the most common types include:

Inpatient Treatment

These facilities can provide drug or alcohol addiction and PTSD treatment for all patients who need it. The patient will need to live on-site for the whole duration of the treatment, but they get a chance to be separate from all their triggers and the environment that caused the addiction and the PTSD to start with. These facilities are often so successful because they allow the patient to be away from the negative influences from before.

There are many services that are offered with these treatments for PTSD and addiction. The patient will be able to do a detox of the substance, go through counseling and therapy, get medical treatment, and be supervised by medical professionals throughout the time. When the treatment is done, they can work on an aftercare program with their doctor.

Outpatient Treatment

This treatment option is going to provide a lot of the same benefits and services that we see with inpatient treatment, but the patient is allowed to still live at home. This allows them to still meet some of the other obligations like work and school that they just can’t miss out on, even though they do need treatment.

There is a slightly different process that will happen during outpatient treatment based on what the patient needs and how bad their environment is for healing. These treatment options can include many recovery services like preventing a relapse, educational classes, support, groups, and therapy to name a few.


There will be several types of therapy that are used to help the patient heal and feel better based on their addiction and the PTSD. The first type is group counseling. This will be done with the guidance of a mental health professional and it focuses on several goals. These often include developing healthy strategies for coping that do not rely on the substance and on improving social skills. The people in the group can also share their stories related to trauma and addiction.

Individual therapy is also going to be a popular option during this time. During these sessions, the patient will be able to work individually with the therapist and can address some of the issues they have when it comes to addiction and PTSD. They will learn how to recognize and then correct their problematic behaviors and bad thought patterns and that results in a healthier individual.

All of these options can work to provide the patient with some of the treatment and help that they need. The exact treatment option is often tailored to the individual who needs the help to ensure that they are able to get some of the assistance that will work the best for them.

Therapies Used for Treatment of Addiction and PTSD

There are several different types of therapies that are available for those who are dealing with PTSD and drug addiction at the same time.

The first one is prolonged exposure. This type of therapy is good for those who are dealing with PTSD. The point is to help the patient re-experience the event that caused the trauma through memories and thoughts. The therapist will then work to reduce how much distress the patient is experiencing so that it will affect them less in the future.

Another option to use is EMDR or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a therapy that is going to engage the person in the event that caused trauma while also employing a technique of tracking the eyes. This technique is going to help reorganize the way that the brain is able to process the events so they are less traumatic to the patient.

CBT is a popular form of therapy for many mental disorders and addictions and may work well when the patient is suffering from PTSD as well. The goal of this is to focus on what connects the behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that the patient has and then they work to fix some of the negative patterns that show up there. The therapist will help the patient build positive coping skills that they can use instead of the drug addiction later on.

Will I Need to Go Through a Detox During the Treatment?

If you are still using the substance when you go into treatment, you will need to go through a detox to get that substance out of your system. This has to happen before any of the other treatment options and services will work.

The good news is that when you do the detox in the treatment facility, you have the benefit of medical professionals being there the whole time. They will be able to walk you through the process, answer your questions, and make sure that you are safe during the detox. Since detoxing from drugs while dealing with PTSD can be dangerous, it is a good idea to have those medical professionals there to help you out.

How Long Will I Be in Treatment?

The amount of time that the patient will be in therapy will depend on how long they have dealt with the PTSD and the drug use or alcoholism, the individual plan for treatment, and whether past treatment options have been successful for the patient or not. While each treatment center can be unique in the length of time that they offer to patients, the most common times are 30, 60, and 90.

Many who are just getting into the drug addiction and other problems will find that 30 days may be enough. For some of the more serious conditions, especially for those who may have struggled with this addiction in the past, it is time to look at a longer stay. The longer times in a treatment facility will provide the patient with some of the assistance that they need, giving them more of a chance to develop their healthy habits.

Directory of PTSD and Addiction Treatment Centers