Childhood trauma can put kids at risk of drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental disorder that causes depression, intense anxiety, and intrusive memories or flashbacks that interfere with life. Many people develop PTSD from childhood abuse, military combat, natural disasters, or sexual assault. First responders are at risk of PTSD due to on-scene tragedies, accidents, or crimes.

According to Marjorie A. Paloma, MPH, who is a senior director at the Princeton-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, repeated exposure to trauma puts kids at risk for substance abuse. “Being abused or neglected, suffering economic deprivation, witnessing violence, or living with someone who has a drug, alcohol, or mental health problem – causes toxic stress.” She also stated, “This stress alters brain chemistry and increases children’s risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and suicide.”  

Drug or alcohol abuse while having PTSD is a dual diagnosis – one from an impairing psychiatric disorder and the other a substance addiction. A person with PTSD abuses drugs or alcohol as a way to seek temporary relief from reality. He or she uses more and more to escape from painful memories and flashbacks, which increases the risk of drug or alcohol addiction.

A person with a dual diagnosis needs to get treatment immediately for his or her mental condition and addiction. Many drugs can worsen symptoms of PTSD and cause physical impairment, overdose, or death. Alcohol abuse damages the brain’s function and causes physical damage to major organs in the body. Alcohol affects a person’s critical thinking, vision, speech, coordination, movement, and can cause overdose or death.

A person with PTSD is at high risk of substance abuse but when treated, that risk lessens. PTSD causes angry outbursts, feelings of helplessness, aggressive behavior, and restlessness. Individuals diagnosed with PTSD and drug or alcohol abuse often experience other disorders such as depression, chronic pain, chronic illness, or attention deficit disorder.

A person with PTSD can feel ashamed or guilty from the trauma and be reluctant to seek help. When a person with PTSD and substance abuse goes to treatment, he or she needs intense support and encouragement from family and friends. A dual diagnosis is treatable and recovery is possible.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or substance abuse, get help today. Nexus Recovery Services is an exclusive experience for individuals who truly want a change and specializes in treatment for addiction. Our mission is to provide tools and support for every client’s seamless transition into a meaningful and fulfilling life of sobriety. We offer a free and confidential consultation. Call us to get started: 310-881-9151

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