Substance Abuse & PTSD

Non-Military PTSD & Substance Abuse

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Most people associate the term "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD) with military service. But the condition can develop following virtually any trauma that is shocking, scary or dangerous -- not just in the aftermath of battle. Trauma is defined as: a deeply disturbing experience, which includes survivors and witnesses of assault, traffic accidents, natural and manmade disasters, and family trauma. Victims of these events often struggle with the condition. Unfortunately, a common side effect is substance abuse.

In fact, Time Magazine reports that "50-66 perent of those who suffer from PTSD also battle simultaneous addiction."

Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms include vividly reliving events, going to extremes to avoid associated stimuli, and struggling with cognition, mood management, sleep, concentration, irritation, and anger. And although not every person who suffers a traumatic event develops the condition, those who do frequently turn to self-medication out of panic and desperation. Drugs and alcohol increase pleasure, reduce anxiety, and distract from the stress-at-hand. But that relief is fleeting. In fact, drug withdrawal symptoms exacerbate PTSD symptoms. When this occurs, users with the disorder find it extremely difficult to stop using. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse can actually trigger PTSD symptoms to last longer than they otherwise would.

Therapists and doctors use the following criterion to diagnose PTSD: 

  1. The patient must have been exposed to or threatened with death. Or, they must have had an injury, or experienced actual or threatened sexual violence. To diagnose the disorder, the clinician must confirm the patient experienced at least one of the following either firsthand, as a witness, learning the event happend to a close family members or friend, or be regularly exposed to other people's trauma (potentially in a professional capacity.)
  2. The patient must have experienced the trauma over and over through at least one of the following: flashbacks, nightmares, thoughts they cannot control, emotional distress and/or phyical symptoms when thinking about the event. 
  3. The patient must be actively trying to avoid reminders about the trauma. This may include refusing to talk about the experience and/or avoiding anything that reminds them of the trauma. 
  4. Their symptoms must have started or grew worse after the traumatic event. At least two of the followiong of these things must be part of their experience: 
  • Often irritable or angry
  • Constantly feel on guard, or are easily startled
  • Engage in risky or dangerous behavior
  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Struggle to stay focused. 

5. They meet the above critera for more than one month. 

6. Their condition impacts work or otherwise impairs their ability to keep up with daily life. 

7. Symptoms cannot be explained by use of medication, illegal drugs, or another illness. 

MFI: More Than Just Substance Abuse Treatment
When PTSD impairs someone's ability to function, intervention is necessary. The same is true for substance abuse disorder. MFI treats mental health issues as well as addiction. So, if you or someone you know has PTSD, let them know that MFI Recovery Center offers treatment whether or not substance abuse is part of the equation. 

About MFI
Throughout 10 facilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, we employ the Matrix Model, creating a personalized treatment program for each client. Various modalities can include behavior modification, 12-Step program introduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems techniques, including the family in group therapy. Treatment options include outpatient and inpatient detox, medication management (if appropriate), group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention education, and ongoing support after treatment. To find out more, call (866) 218-4697, or for non-admission related information, contact us at (951) 683-6596. 

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