War veterans sometimes struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. In certain instances, war veterans may use alcohol and drugs to cope with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Is PTSD?
PTSD refers to a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event. It may cause flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, along with uncontrollable thoughts relating to the event.
There are four types of PTSD symptoms:
- Intrusive Memories: Involves unwanted memories of a traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, emotional distress, and/or physical reactions to anything that reminds a person of the event.
- Avoidance: Involves avoiding places, people, and activities that remind a person of a traumatic event. Avoidance also involves trying to find ways to stop thinking or talking about the event.
- Negative Mood or Thought Changes: Involves negative thoughts or feelings, memory issues, and detachment from family members, friends, and other loved ones.
- Emotional and Physical Changes: Involves trouble sleeping and/or concentrating, irritability, overwhelming guilt or shame, and other emotional and physical issues.
PTSD symptoms may start within about a month after a traumatic event, or they may begin several years following the event. They also range in terms of severity and length. Perhaps worst of all, PTSD symptoms that go untreated may lead to self-destructive behaviors.
Can PTSD Lead to Addiction?
A war veteran who is dealing with PTSD may face painful memories of a traumatic experience. This may lead him or her to turn to alcohol or drugs as a temporary respite. Once the effects of alcohol or drug use wear off, however, this individual’s PTSD symptoms may feel worse than ever before – something that could lead to addiction.
On the other hand, an alcohol or drug addiction may contribute to the onset of PTSD, too. Substance abuse affects a person’s decision-making abilities and may lead to dangerous behaviors. It also raises the risk that a person may be involved in an accident, crime, or another traumatic event. Therefore, a war veteran who is addicted to alcohol or drugs may increase his or her risk of PTSD.
What Is the Link Between PTSD and SUD?
War veterans may have been exposed to combat, accidents, natural disasters, and other traumatic events, and these events may make war veterans susceptible to PTSD. Meanwhile, war veterans who struggle with PTSD sometimes turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their condition. This ultimately may lead a war veteran to develop a substance use disorder (SUD).
SUD occurs when a person uses substances that lead to health issues or problems that affect his or her ability to perform everyday tasks. It may involve the use of different substances, and these include:
- Opiates: Act as painkillers that may cause drowsiness or intense feelings of joy and happiness.
- Stimulants: Help increase physiological or nervous activity in the body.
- Depressants: May cause drowsiness, as well as reduce anxiety.
- LSD: May result in hallucinations.
- Marijuana: Contains THC and other mind-altering chemicals.
Additionally, there are four stages of alcohol or drug use that may lead to SUD:
- Experimental Use: Involves the use of alcohol or drugs for recreational use.
- Regular Use: Leads to increased alcohol and drug tolerance and the need to use various substances to “fix” negative emotions.
- Problem or Risky Use: Results in behavioral changes, including loss of interest in past relationships with loved ones and everyday activities.
- Addiction: Involves complete reliance on alcohol or drugs to face daily life.
Approximately 27% of veterans in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care diagnosed with PTSD also deal with SUD, according to the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD). Furthermore, nearly one-third of veterans seeking treatment for SUD also have PTSD.
Are Treatments Available for Co-Occurring PTSD and SUD?
Many treatments are available to help war veterans treat PTSD and SUD at the same time. These treatments include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A form of psychotherapy that involves the modification of dysfunctional emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy: A form of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches a person how to evaluate and change upsetting thoughts following a traumatic event.
- Behavioral Couples Therapy: A form of behavior therapy in which an individual and his or her spouse work together to improve communication and facilitate recovery from an alcohol or drug addiction.
Research suggests that people have improved PTSD and SUD symptoms when they receive simultaneous treatment for both conditions. Thus, with the right treatment plan in place, a war veteran may be better equipped than ever before to overcome his or her co-occurring PTSD and SUD symptoms.
What Is the Best Treatment Option for Co-Occurring PTSD and SUD?
Co-occurring PTSD and SUD sometimes may be difficult to treat, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to treat all co-occurring PTSD and SUD cases, at all times. As such, for war veterans who are dealing with co-occurring PTSD and SUD, it is crucial to work with healthcare professionals who can provide a customized treatment program.
If you or someone you know is dealing with co-occurring PTSD and SUD, the Clear Sky Recovery team can help. Our team understands the challenges of treating addiction, and we offer personalized treatment programs to help war veterans and others address co-occurring PTSD and SUD. Plus, we provide a state-of-the-art ibogaine treatment center staffed by scientists, clinicians, nurses, and support personnel who are committed to patient success. We also offer a safe, nurturing environment to help patients get the most out of their treatment experience.
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