Drug Addiction and PTSD
Crisis or Stress?
A crisis is an event in life that is predictable or anticipated. We normally develop the necessary coping skills to successfully handle and resolve crisis as they appear. We all experience crisis in our lives. Examples of a crisis are things like incredible stress brought on by unexpected events, or potential events like potential loss of a job, or relationship, financial concerns, or not being able to meet a deadline. Anything that could cause added stress to one’s current emotional or physical status can be considered a crisis.
In today’s world, almost half of all people working in the US are stressed by the idea that they believe they could lose their job. For those 10 -18% that are actually unemployed or underemployed, they are in a crisis. How to meet the needs of the family, how to pay the bills, or will they lose their house, are huge concerns that bring about crisis.
What is trauma?
Trauma is an event outside of the normal human experiences. It often causes feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. It is different than that of the crisis mentioned above, in that a person is not able to use coping skills, and there is nothing one can do to stop the event from happening. Examples of traumas would include natural disasters, accidental and intentional disasters, and repeated events like war, sexual abuse, terrorist threats, or spousal abuse.
What is PTS – Post traumatic stress?
PTS is actually a helpful coping mechanism, that acts as a response to threats of safety. In the moment of a PTS event, the brain becomes dysfunctional, and decision making is handled by a different part of the brain, that stops our ability to logically think. Blood flow is redirected from vital organs to the muscles to increase physical strength, and awareness of pain is lessoned. PTS is the normal reaction to an abnormal event. It is what we do from this point that will determine our healing.
What is PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
PTSD is different in the above description of PTS in that it is an official diagnosis that is primarily based on the severity, symptoms, and time since the event occurred. The quicker the response time for treatment the better the chance of healing. Acute (less than 3 months) and Chronic (3 months or more) are the level of degree of PTSD.
Symptoms and Behaviors of PTSD
Some of the severe symptoms include; recurrent distressing memories or dreams of the event, illusions, hallucinations, and flashback. Behavior of intense distress, efforts to avoid feelings or conversations associated with the trauma, effort to detach from others, expression of guilt feelings of survival, and irritability or outbursts of anger are all common reactions to PTSD. This is a very small list of symptoms and behaviors, but one where you can imagine the internal struggle.
How People are Impacted by PTSD
Probably the two most common features that impact people who experience PTSD is numbing, and fight or flight reactions. Numbing is witnessed as someone having a flat affect, and fight or flight is perceived as ‘I must fight or run away’. Both of these reactions to PTSD are either perceived as real or imagined danger and/or hopelessness. Other reactions that may develop as coping mechanisms are dissociation and addictions.
MPD – Dissociative disorders
Dissociative disorders is where the mind protects a person by taking them elsewhere, while a dissociative part takes over to handle the trauma. It is a form of escape. Usually, this type of reaction is created by an event(s) that is perceived as more than one can handle; things like sexual, mental or repeated abuse. Repeated exposure to military combat has shown an increase in dissociative disorders. Many soldiers are returning to their 4th and 5th tour of duty in Afghanistan, because they fear they will end up in the streets of America, homeless. Unfortunately, they are increasing their potential of creating dissociative states to survive.
Drug Addictions and PTSD
Addictions occur as a typical reaction to immense pressure and is perceived as a quick escape from the symptoms from PTSD. It is an easy way to self-medicate from the unresolved trauma. The last thing a victim wants to do is re-experience a past traumatic event, or extreme hyper-arousal symptoms, which cause them to reacted to triggers. This tends to send them back into fight or flight reactions. Sometimes they relive the event instantly. Drugs and alcohol are often chosen to try to cover the unresolved traumatic event of the past. Soldiers coming back from several tours of duty from the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan struggle to get help, and quickly find drugs and alcohol as a quick fix. It’s been reported many soldiers don’t want PTSD on their record, therefore they don’t get diagnosed or help.
Healing after PTSD
Every person reacts to situations differently. Recently I read, that there are approximately 18 suicides daily in America from within the military coming back from the current wars, who are suffering from PTSD. Support seems to be the most effective remedy. Combining professional, spiritual, family, and community level of involvement has shown to be the most effective way to bring about the quickest healing.
What the Bible tells us about trauma
In the Bible, in Romans 5:1-5 the Apostle Paul tells us to face trauma head on. That God will take us on a journey from hopelessness to perseverance to transformation to strength and finally to a place of hope once again. I believe God will allow things in our lives to enable us to depend on Him and to build stronger character in us and then if we will allow ourselves to be used by God, He will put us in a place of ministering to others. I have seen this played out over and over again in successful people’s lives. It is the struggle that changes us to become stronger.
The best advice I can give you if you are someone or know someone who is suffering from PTSD is to get professional help. Don’t allow yourself to head down the path of destruction from drugs, alcohol, or any other unhealthy coping tragedy.
For more information and discussion concerning Drug addictions and PTSD leave your comments below or email Dr. Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Hamed Saber