Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and substance abuse is the stuff of legends. Countless movies, films, television shows and books have featured the story of traumatized men and women who turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Often these portrayals are done in an extremely negative light, painting sufferers of addiction and PTSD as dangerous outcasts worthy of scrutiny and even incarceration. However, these Hollywood style portrayals are rarely close to the truth. The fact of the matter is that many people suffer from both PTSD and addiction or alcoholism, and most are not dangerous in any way. Understanding why these conditions occur together so frequently is crucial to developing a long term treatment plan that will address these and any other underlying conditions present.

Post traumatic stress disorder occurs when a person has experienced an extremely traumatic event such as being the victim of sexual or other assaults, witnessing horrifying scenes like car accidents or homicides, from emotional and physical abuse and from many other severely stressful events. PTSD can also develop after the death of a loved one, and in some cases after the birth of a child. The human body responds to such high levels of stress by releasing endorphins to help deal with the pain and trauma of the event. Dual Diagnosis.ORG, an organization dedicated to creating public awareness about PTSD and addiction, wrote the following on their website:

"When an individual experiences a traumatic event, his brain creates a large amount of endorphins as a way of coping with stress of the moment. When the event is over, the body goes through a kind of "endorphin withdrawal", which carries many of the same symptoms as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. Many of those with PTSD will turn to alcohol as a means of replacing the feelings brought on [by] endorphin withdrawal."

This means that the very process of PTSD is similar to that of addiction. Substance abuse causes a release of dopamine – a "feel good" substance created in the brain that is responsible for the euphoric high that people feel when they do drugs. Therefore, some might argue that post traumatic stress disorder actually precipitates addiction by causing a craving for the good feelings created in order to lessen the trauma of a disturbing event. However, studies indicating that sufferers of PTSD are just as likely to develop a substance problem before a traumatic event as after tell us that there's more to the relationship between these two conditions than we know.

Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder must be provided concurrently with treatment for addiction or alcoholism. In fact, due to the severity of many addictions and because some of these have the potential to be fatal, treatment of a drug or alcohol problem is seen as a basic stabilizing necessity before any other underlying issues can be addressed. Once detox and stabilization has occurred, a treatment plan will be developed using individual, group and family therapies to uncover issues and create specific plans to cope with them – without the use of drugs or alcohol.

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Author's Bio: 

A writer for most of his career, Casey has been published in numerous journals and magazines and has four books in print. Widely considered an expert on addiciton and alcoholism, Casey is also a passionate writer of fiction.