Trauma casts a long shadow. Whether it’s experienced as a child or as an adult, if trauma isn’t addressed and dealt with properly – if it’s allowed to linger in perpetuity – it can slowly eat away at a person. In some cases that manifests in a substance use disorder where drugs and/or alcohol are used to escape the torment if only momentarily. In that respect, it would make sense why PTSD and addiction are so enmeshed with one another. As per the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “according to one national epidemiologic study, 46.4% of individuals with lifetime PTSD also met criteria for SUD”. Another study puts it more candidly, “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUDs) are prevalent and frequently co-occur”. Period. Point blank.
What Is PTSD?PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a condition that develops in those who’ve gone through some type of terrifying, shocking, intense or dangerous experience. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) notes that “events that may lead to PTSD include, but are not limited to, violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, combat, and other forms of violence”. The criterion for diagnosis according to the NIMH is having all of these occur for 1 month or more:
- At least one re-experiencing symptom
- At least one avoidance symptom
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms