Over 50% of People With PTSD Struggle With Addiction

PTSD is closely linked to addiction.

When addiction and a condition like PTSD co-exist, it is called dual-diagnosis. This means upon entering a treatment program, you receive treatment for both conditions at the same time. At Diamond House, we specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment.

Read on to learn more about PTSD and its connection with addiction, as well as the signs of addiction to look out for.

Correlation Between PTSD, Drug Use and Addiction

According to the National Center for PTSD, PTSD is a common problem that affects seven to eight out of every 100 adults. It all starts when a person experiences a traumatic event. When they are in danger, the brain responds by triggering the "fight or flight" mode, which is an increased surge of adrenaline, among other chemicals. This enables the person to do what they must to survive.

The problem arises when adrenaline continues to be released even when the dangerous situation has passed

One of the biggest symptoms of PTSD is the constant need to avoid remembering the events that led to the trauma you faced. One way people with PTSD avoid remembering traumatic events is by turning to substance use in an effort to reduce anxiety, increase pleasure and distract themselves from negative emotions. That’s why over 50% of people with PTSD often struggle with an addiction.

Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder is hard enough, but it’s worse when you also have to deal with drug and substance abuse. But no matter how tough these conditions are our trauma therapy at Diamond House Detox in Sacramento can help you safely detox and treat PTSD.

How to Know If a PTSD Sufferer Has Also Become Addicted to Drugs

People who are already suffering from PTSD may quickly look for ways to numb the pain. If you have a family member or friend who has PTSD, here are signs to watch out for that they have become addicted to alcohol or substance use as a coping mechanism:

  • Drastic changes in mood: memory lapses, negative feelings, emotional numbness and difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Changes in emotional reactions: anger, irritability, shame, insomnia, trouble concentrating and reckless behavior
  • Intrusive memories: night terrors, vivid flashbacks and extreme physical reactions to traumatic events
  • Avoidance: trying to avoid the people and the memories that triggered their traumatic event


However, it might be hard to recognize the exact symptoms of co-occurring PTSD and substance use because someone may try to keep their habit a secret to avoid shame. If a loved one with PTSD seems to be falling deeper into depression and shows signs of withdrawal and avoidance, they might be struggling with an addiction problem.

If you think your family member or friend is struggling with PTSD and substance addiction, you should reach out to our free helpline: (888) 205-9455

Common Drugs Those Who Suffer From PTSD Take

The five most common substances people who suffer from PTSD become addicted to include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy


Treatment Types for PTSD and Addiction

Because PTSD and addiction have overlapping symptoms, it is recommended to treat both conditions simultaneously. This way, you can overcome both the triggers and emotions that come as a result of the disorders. In the end, this can help you overcome past traumatic events and maintain sobriety because it deals with the underlying cause of the addiction.

The following are treatments best employed for simultaneously treating PTSD and addiction.

  1. Cognitive Behavior Therapy for PTSD and Addiction

Behavioral therapy teaches you to control any thoughts and attitudes that could lead to addiction. Its main purpose is to prevent relapse by helping you get rid of negative thoughts while equipping you with coping skills needed to implement positive behavior.

  1. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

EMDR therapy involves helping you process traumatic emotions and memories better. By working with a therapist, you can gain closure from traumatic events that happened in the past. Instead of being angry, sad or horrified, you can learn to associate the events with something positive, such as the realization that you are courageous, strong and capable of surviving anything.

  1. Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on identifying your unconscious thoughts and emotions to help alleviate current behavior and any other tension. This type of treatment aims to correct past behavior for a better future. During sessions, professionals work to understand your emotions so as to reduce the chances of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Reasons for addiction are uncovered, and you learn ways to manage impulses in the future.

  1. Group Therapy

Group therapy provides treatment that allows you to receive support from others who are going through similar challenges. Because PTSD and addiction often lead to depression and loneliness, group therapy can help you achieve a sense of positive identity and self-image through identification with others facing the same challenges.

How Long Does Trauma Therapy Take to Help?

There is no time limit when it comes to therapy. You may find yourself healing after just a few therapy sessions, or it could take several weeks. It depends on the individual and the circumstances.

Detox as the First Step to Recovery

If you or a loved one are facing a dual-diagnoses such as addiction and PTSD, you need to work with professionals who truly understand your special needs. Rehab facilities and psychiatric centers may not have the treatment and detox programs you require to properly treat both disorders.

At Diamond House Detox, we offer incidental medical services with in-house medical providers. They can offer medically assisted detox and injections, which are not available in most other facilities. Get in touch with us and get help from professionals who understand dual diagnosis best.
Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on October 5th, 2019.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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