addiction PTSD

PTSD & Addiction: How to Heal from the Inside Out


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Nearly 50% of Americans know someone struggling with substance abuse – a group that comprises nearly 10% of the US population. At the same time, however, there may be several people in your life dealing with a secret struggle that’s just as dangerous, if less known today: PTSD. On average, about 15 million Americans – 6 % of the overall population – struggle with PTSD every year. In certain segments of the population, like veterans, that number can be even higher. PTSD and addiction often go hand in hand, so breaking the stigma of one requires an understanding of the other. Here’s everything you need to know about PTSD, addiction, and healing both from the inside out.

What is PTSD? 

Despite its prevalence, PTSD has been a little-known condition for much of American history. In fact, it was not even added to the DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) until 1980. (Addiction was added in 1952.) Today, we know that PTSD is a psychiatric disorder involving a constellation of symptoms, caused when someone has difficulty recovering from a traumatic event. 

The definition of trauma can vary from individual to individual. We often discuss “Big T” trauma, such as combat, sexual assault, or personal injury, and “Small T” trauma like divorce in the family, losing a pet, or other life experiences that can leave emotional scars. “Big T” and “Small T” trauma can be equally crippling for some individuals, leading to anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and other intense psychological and physical symptoms.

For example, one 2013 study found that 13.5% of veterans from the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts screened positive for PTSD.

Luckily, the more we learn about PTSD, the better we can treat it.

PTSD & Addiction 

Sadly, many people attempt to self-medicate their PTSD with drugs and alcohol, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction. One 2012 study in the European Journal of Psychotrauma found that 36.6% of participants receiving substance abuse treatment also scored positive for PTSD. The authors wrote, “Almost every patient had encountered at least one traumatic experience in his/her lifetime.” Those numbers “were significantly lower” in individuals without substance use disorder.

We know today that addiction is almost always the symptom of deeper emotional traumas or disorders, such as PTSD. Therefore, treating addiction successfully requires addressing such issues at the same time.

Treating PTSD & Addiction 

The authors of that 2012 study noted that there has been a “severe underdiagnosis” of PTSD in substance use disorder treatment, despite the fact that many studies have shown it to be beneficial to treat both simultaneously. 

No one can ever truly remove the scars of emotional trauma, but PTSD and addiction are both conditions that can be successfully managed. For example, one study found that even just medicine alone caused a 78% relief response in study participants with PTSD. Adding therapeutic modalities like talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can help even further. 

Approaching this process in a safe, comfortable sanctuary for healing like Acqua Recovery ensures that you’ll feel capable of approaching your emotional traumas at your own pace, so you can heal them and learn tools for the future. 

How To Get Help for PTSD & Addiction

Acqua Recovery’s entire addiction treatment model is trauma-informed, with a focus on co-occurring disorders with PTSD. To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one find true renewal and freedom at our sanctuary for healing, call us today. Recovery is possible – we have the experience and data to prove it. Let us show you how.


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How to Help a Veteran Find Freedom from Addiction

How to Help a Veteran Find Freedom from Addiction

The friends and family of America’s vets understand all too well what it feels like to be consumed with worry and fear for your loved one. When addiction is the foe your vet is facing, it’s even more painful. Addiction is a cunning, baffling, and powerful adversary. Luckily, no one has to face addiction alone – and that includes military families and the loved ones of vets.

Helping a veteran find freedom from addiction is possible for anyone, and it may be even easier than you think.