DRUG ADDICTION: HOW COMMON IS PTSD?

DRUG ADDICTION: HOW COMMON IS PTSD?

The reasons that an individual may abuse drugs or alcohol can be very complex, but there are some factors that increase the risk. After experiencing a traumatic event or several traumatic events, there is a possibility that an individual may attempt to avoid the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, by abusing a substance. Although PTSD is not the only factor that may contribute to drug addiction, it may increase the risk of developing an addiction.

What is PTSD?

The reasons that an individual may abuse drugs or alcohol can be very complex, but there are some factors that increase the risk. After experiencing a traumatic event or several traumatic events, there is a possibility that an individual may attempt to avoid the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, by abusing a substance. Although PTSD is not the only factor that may contribute to drug addiction, it may increase the risk of developing an addiction.

The Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs explains that PTSD is a disorder that occurs after an individual has experienced a life-threatening situation or has witnessed a similar trauma.

Generally, it refers to individuals who have survived or been involved in an uncontrollable situation that was traumatic. It may also relate to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, even if the individual’s life was not in danger.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, roughly 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience a traumatic situation in their lifetime. Generally, women are more likely to experience sexual abuse or trauma, says the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to experience physical violence, assault or may be the witness to a death or serious injury.

Although a large number of individuals will experience a traumatic event, only a small percentage will actually develop PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs suggests that roughly 4 percent of men will develop PTSD in their lifetime.

Drug Addiction and PTSD

Even though the majority of individuals will recover from traumatic experiences without developing PTSD, the University of Hawaii reports that many individuals will use alcohol or other substances to help with the irritability, fears or depression that may occur after a traumatic experience. A key factor that may contribute to the use of a substance is related to the ability to control the situation.

According to the University of Hawaii, an individual who has attempted to prevent the traumatic experience has a lower risk of developing PTSD and may cope with the stress of a traumatic situation much easier than an individual who was not in control. That feeling of helplessness or learned helplessness that may occur during prolonged traumatic experiences can be an essential factor in the risk of addiction.

Using Drugs to Reduce PTSD Symptoms

The University of Hawaii explains that the use of alcohol or other substances after a traumatic experience can be an attempt to compensate for the reduced levels of endorphins in the body.During a traumatic experience, an individual may have a large number of endorphins that are released in an effort to reduce or numb the pain. The body will naturally stop producing endorphins when the danger has passed, which results in physical and emotional symptoms.

Drug Abuse Increases Endorphins

 

Using alcohol or other substances can increase the levels of endorphins in the body, which increases the risk of an addiction. Coping strategies and methods of handling the symptoms that develop are the key to determining if an addiction will develop.

Although a traumatic experience is not the only reason that a drug addiction can develop, it can be a trigger or a contributing factor. Individuals who have been diagnosed with PTSD can have a higher risk of addiction, especially if they used a substance like alcohol shortly after the trauma occurred.

If you or a loved one is trying to recover from substance abuse after a traumatic experience, then it may be necessary to seek a drug treatment program that can handle the symptoms of PTSD and the drug addiction.