People suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) are two to four times as likely to also deal with addiction when compared to individuals who aren’t struggling with it based on a recent study by NCBI. Even with this being the case, treatment is always readily available for those seeking help.

First responders, in particular, have an even higher chance of experiencing symptoms relating to PTSD. During a recent study completed at the University of Phoenix, first responders were surveyed to analyze their experience relating to mental health issues. The study found that one-third of them received a formal diagnosis — and half of these individuals did not receive treatment or pre-exposure training.

Regardless of how severe one’s symptoms and addiction are, we’re here to help. With post traumatic stress disorder impacting between 7 and 8 percent of people at one point or another, at Transitions Recovery, we’re ready to assist at any time.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD happens as a result of one experiencing a traumatic or life-threatening event. The danger causes the brain to trigger a “fight or flight” response, resulting in an alteration of brain chemicals and an elevation of blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature. The individual’s focus and attention levels peak and their adrenaline rushes like a river.

These features assist people in escaping potentially dangerous situations, and this is the right response to danger. The stress can continue after the danger passes, and for those who find danger in their day-to-day job, it can persist long after it’s essential for protecting the individual from harm.

War veterans aren’t the only people who can develop PTSD; anyone can have an experience that triggers the disorder. This includes victims of natural disasters, physical and sexual abuse, terror attacks, and other traumatic events. Not everyone who suffers from PTSD, however, has been through a life-threatening situation. Unprecedented experiences like the death of a loved one can cause PTSD.

What Are The Symptoms?

While EMT’s, police officers, and firefighters notoriously experience traumatic events, it can affect anyone at any time. It’s diagnosed if symptoms are interfering with the individual’s daily life and persist for a minimum of one month. These are the symptoms one might be experiencing:

  • Avoidance —Situations or things that remind the patient of a traumatic event can trigger symptoms of avoidance. The individual stays away from people, places, or things that remind them of the event. As much as possible, they also avoid feelings or thoughts related to the traumatic event.
  • Re-experiencing — this person can experience flashbacks, nightmares, or scary thoughts. Re-experiencing symptoms can disrupt a patient’s daily routine. Anything that reminds them of the event can cause them to stop what they’re doing and fall back into re-living the memory.
  • Arousal and reactivity — Arousal symptoms are constant and do not require “triggers.” Someone with the disorder might have difficulty sleeping, find themselves “on edge,” have angry outbursts, or get startled easily. They also have a tendency to feel stressed or angry, making it difficult for them to perform day-to-day tasks.
  • Cognition and mood symptoms — this individual could have distorted feelings of guilt, a negative self-image, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or memory problems. Patients also experience trouble remembering what happened during the traumatic event. These symptoms can make the person feel detached or alienated from loved ones.

Treating PTSD and Substance Abuse: What Are Your Options?

The most common treatments for patients with PTSD and substance abuse are psychotherapy (also known as counseling or “talk” therapy), medication, or both. Although there are plenty of treatment options for PTSD and substance abuse, and the patient’s response to treatment varies from one patient to another, some treatment options offer more benefits compared to others.

One of the most highly recommended treatments (especially for PTSD) is trauma-focused psychotherapy. The treatment focuses on identifying and coping with the memory of the traumatic event, as well as determining the meaning behind it. It uses different techniques to help patients process their experience. It involves talking, visualizing, or making sense of the trauma.

Trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence include the following:

  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) — This therapy helps you manage negative thoughts triggered by any traumatic event. It involves having a discussion with a therapist about your thoughts and writing about them.
  • Prolonged Exposure (PE) — Gain control by facing your negative emotions. This treatment involves talking about the trauma and learning to do things you avoided due to the trauma.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) — Gain a better understanding of your response to trauma by recalling the experience while focusing on a tune or repetitive physical movement (e.g., a finger waving side to side).

Other Types of Counseling

Apart from the other treatments mentioned above, there are additional types of counseling, such as:

  • Group Therapy — Patients can talk about their trauma and gain PTSD and substance abuse management skills in a group setting. Group therapy can also help patients by giving them a safe space to express their worries, feelings, and problems. This form of therapy also provides a chance for patients to talk about their trauma with others who can relate.
  • Family and Couples’ Therapy — This form of therapy includes the patient’s immediate family. A therapist conducts a group session that helps everyone involved to communicate, cope with tough emotions, and relate with others better.


One of the most studied medications for treating PTSD is antidepressants, which helps control symptoms of the condition (e.g., anger, worry, sadness, and feeling numb inside). Most therapists recommend antidepressants and other medications, along with psychotherapy.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is another approach to PTSD and substance abuse treatment. For example, there are studies assessing acupuncture’s (a form of Chinese medicine) role in mitigating symptoms of PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, migraine, and insomnia.

Herbal and dietary supplements have also been used to aid the treatment of PTSD, but current studies still provide insufficient evidence to prove their effectiveness in treating PTSD and substance abuse.

Patients and their medical health providers can work together to find the best medication for their PTSD treatment. Feel free to consult with your therapist to map out your treatment plan.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also offers the latest information on PTSD and substance abuse patient medication guides, newly approved medications, and warnings. You can check out their website to learn more.

PTSD And Alcohol Addiction: Getting Help

Substance abuse is sometimes used to cope with traumatic stress events. These substances can make treatment more complicated, but abuse is appealing because it can assist the person with escaping.

The use of substances can decrease anxiety, distract from difficult emotions, and even increase pleasure. Even with this being the case, when the substance wears off, the patient can feel lower than ever, giving a good reason as to why help is essential for anyone coping with these issues.

This web copy was reviewed by Transitions Recovery Program’s Director – Marian Bach, LMHC, CAP