PTSD and Addiction

Effectively Treating Trauma and Substance Abuse

If you’re struggling with both PTSD and addiction, you’re not alone. There are many people who are in similar situations, and it can be incredibly difficult to manage a PTSD diagnosis alongside chemical dependency.

The good news is that help is here. Icarus Behavioral Health in Nevada offers effective treatment for those suffering from these conditions.

In this guide, we’ll discuss posttraumatic stress disorder, the relationship between PTSD and drug addiction, and the importance of seeking substance abuse and PTSD treatment.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) lists common symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoidance of the trauma-related memory or context, hyperarousal, and exaggerated startle response.

People with PTSD may also experience difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, and irritability.

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The Relationship Between PTSD and Drug Abuse

There is a strong relationship between PTSD and drug addiction. Those with PTSD are more likely to develop an addiction due to the need to cope with their trauma-related symptoms. In addition, drugs can often increase symptoms of PTSD such as hyperarousal or intrusive thoughts. The cycle of using drugs to self-medicate and then developing a dependency is known as “self-medication.”

The medication cycle is especially dangerous for those with PTSD because it can lead to an increased risk of relapse and greater difficulty in achieving long-term recovery from both conditions. It is therefore important for people with co-occurring PTSD and drug addiction to receive comprehensive treatment that addresses both their mental disorders and their substance abuse issues.

Talk Therapies for Treating PTSD/PTSD Symptoms and Drug Addiction

Talk Therapies for Treating PTSD

There are a variety of talk therapies available to help both PTSD symptoms and drug addiction. These therapies can provide invaluable insight into the underlying issues that may be driving your substance abuse, as well as provide skills to manage difficult emotions and cravings.

Here are some of the most common talk therapies used at Icarus to treat co-occurring PTSD and drug addiction.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on recognizing and changing unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors in order to achieve healthier outcomes. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD symptoms and drug addiction, as it helps people learn to identify potentially dangerous triggers and develop coping skills to manage their symptoms.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a small group of individuals meets together to discuss issues related to their comorbid PTSD and addiction. This type of therapy is beneficial for those with PTSD and addiction as it allows them to receive support from peers who have similar experiences and can provide a sense of community.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on teaching individuals strategies for managing their emotions and improving interpersonal relationships and problem-solving skills.

DBT has been shown to be an effective treatment for PTSD and addiction as it helps individuals identify triggers, develop better coping skills and build self-esteem.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that utilizes eye movements as a way to help individuals process and manage difficult emotions. It can be used to treat both co-occurring PTSD and drug abuse, as it helps people gain insight into the underlying causes of their substance abuse and develop healthier ways of managing their symptoms.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on facing a traumatic or stressful event in order to reduce its psychological power. This type of therapy has been found to be especially helpful for those with PTSD and substance use disorder, as it helps individuals process their trauma and move towards healthier coping strategies.

What Are Co-Occurring Disorders?


As well as PTSD, there are other co-occurring disorders that can occur alongside a substance use disorder. These can include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). You must address both your mental health condition and the addiction in order to achieve successful treatment outcomes.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood and energy levels. Those with bipolar disorder may experience both mania and depression, which can lead to difficulty in functioning day-to-day.

Substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder and is often used as a way to cope with the highs and lows. This is why substance use disorders are often seen with bipolar disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterized by unstable emotions, moods, relationships, and behavior. Those with BPD may also experience intense feelings of emptiness or abandonment, which can lead to self-harming behavior or suicidal thoughts.

Substance use disorders are often seen with BPD, as a way to cope with the intense feelings associated with BPD and can worsen the symptoms of the disorder.


Schizophrenia is a mental health condition characterized by difficulty in distinguishing between reality and fantasy, hallucinations, delusions, and problems with thinking. Substance abuse is often used as a way to cope with the symptoms of schizophrenia and can lead to further impairment in functioning.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a mental health condition characterized by intrusive thoughts, worries, or fears that lead to repetitive behaviors or rituals. Those with OCD may use drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their intrusive thoughts which can worsen the symptoms of this mental health disorder.

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Additional Challenges Posed By Combined PTSD and Substance Abuse

If you are struggling with both Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder, you should take some time to understand the effect that these two conditions can have on each other.

Having PTSD can make withdrawal symptoms from drugs much worse, increasing your risk of relapse or making it more difficult to stop using. It is essential to seek professional help in order to safely and effectively manage both addiction and PTSD.

PTSD Increases Withdrawal Symptoms

When you have PTSD, your body is constantly on high alert for danger. This can cause an increase in physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating, shaking, and difficulty breathing. It can also lead to emotional disturbances such as feeling overwhelmed or out of control. All of these symptoms can be exacerbated when you are withdrawing from drugs, making the process much more difficult and uncomfortable.

Withdrawal from drugs is always difficult, but if you have PTSD it can be even more challenging. The withdrawal from some substances can be so challenging that many people stay hooked on drugs or alcohol for years so that they do not have to deal with the withdrawal. This is also true of people with PTSD, who also have to deal with PTSD symptoms when they get clean and sober.

PTSD Increases Risk of Relapse

In addition to the physical and emotional discomfort of withdrawal, PTSD can also increase your risk of relapse. The experience of intense cravings, combined with the feeling that you need to rely on drugs to cope with your trauma, can make it difficult to maintain abstinence. If you are not able to manage both the addiction and the PTSD in a healthy way, it can be easy to fall back into old patterns of substance abuse disorder.

That is why you need to seek drug abuse and PTSD treatment if you have PTSD and are addicted to drugs. A qualified treatment facility such as ours will provide support and guidance as you navigate the withdrawal process.

Having a safe space like Icarus, in which to discuss your challenges and find healthy coping strategies, can make it easier to manage both the addiction and PTSD, reducing your risk of relapse and helping you stay on track with treatment.

What Kinds of Traumatic Events Can Trigger PTSD?

What Kinds of Traumatic Events Can Trigger PTSD

If you have experienced a traumatic event or traumatic events, you may be at risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is important to understand what kinds of events can trigger the condition so that you can get the help and support you need if needed.

Natural Disasters

Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes can all lead to PTSD. Not only do these events cause physical destruction, they can also create a sense of powerlessness in those affected by them. The fear of not being able to protect yourself or your loved ones during a disaster can be extremely traumatic and can trigger PTSD.

Car Accidents

Car accidents, especially those involving serious injury or death, are another common cause of PTSD. The experience of feeling out of control and helpless during a car accident can be extremely traumatic, leading to feelings of shock and fear that can linger long after the incident has passed.

Violent Crimes

Victims of crime can also be at risk for PTSD. Being the victim of a violent attack or sexual assault can cause intense feelings of fear and helplessness that can lead to the development of PTSD. Witnessing a traumatic event, such as a murder or suicide, can also trigger PTSD.

Combat Experiences

Military personnel can be particularly prone to developing PTSD due to the intense and sometimes terrifying experiences they face in combat. Experiencing life-threatening situations and being exposed to danger on a regular basis can lead to PTSD even after service is completed.

Other Types of Trauma

In addition to these specific types of events, any traumatic experience can trigger PTSD. This includes anything from the death of a loved one to experiencing a traumatic medical procedure or being in an abusive relationship.

Note that it is possible to suffer from partial posttraumatic stress disorder, which is a milder form of PTSD, where only a few symptoms are seen.

Alcohol Abuse and PTSD

There is also a strong connection between alcohol abuse and PTSD. Studies have found that people who suffer from PTSD are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder than those without the condition. Like drug abuse, alcohol can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of PTSD, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories.

Long-term consumption of alcohol can also worsen existing symptoms and create new ones, such as depression and anxiety. Long-term alcohol use increases the risk of other physical and psychological health problems.

Seeking a Treatment Program for PTSD and Substance Use

Treatment Program for PTSD and Substance Use

When it comes to the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder, you must seek help from a treatment center that specializes in both conditions. Not doing this can lead to poorer treatment outcomes, and we believe Icarus to be among the most effective choices for care, not just in Nevada but nationwide.

A comprehensive substance abuse treatment plan will involve a variety of evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and psychotherapy, as well as medication management.

Treatment centers also provide a safe and supportive environment for those struggling with both PTSD and substance use disorders. The professionals at these facilities can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage your symptoms and offer guidance in making positive lifestyle changes that will help you stay sober.

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Your Destination for PTSD and Addiction Treatment

Icarus Behavioral Health has dedicated mental health professionals who can help you overcome PTSD and addiction. Remember, when it comes to the combination of these two illnesses, it is crucial that you have a team who can treat both at the same time.

If you would like more information on how we can help you get free from trauma and cycles of substance use, contact us for a confidential consultation today!