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Trauma and Substance Abuse

a womans co occurring disorders of trauma or ptsd and substance abuse begin to impact her life negatively

The long-term effects of traumatic events can impact you in various ways. One well-known potential consequence is the onset of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may also have increased risks for drug or alcohol problems. PTSD and diagnosable substance problems frequently go hand in hand. If this happens to you, you not only need help for your substance problems. You also need the specialized support provided by a PTSD treatment program. Contact Northpoint Colorado at 970.579.4569 for more information.

Trauma, PTSD, and ASD

Traumatic events are situations that ramp up your stress exposure far beyond normal levels. In many cases, the effects of this exposure naturally fade away over a period of weeks or months. However, you may not experience this kind of natural recovery. Instead, your reactions to trauma may linger and grow worse over time.

For some people, the end result is PTSD. If you have this disorder, you continue to experience the aftereffects of trauma at least 30 days after your exposure. In addition, you develop symptoms that cause you to:

  • Experience unwanted reminders of your trauma
  • Avoid those trauma reminders in any way you can
  • Undergo harmful changes in your everyday mental state
  • Become jittery and hypersensitive to your surroundings

You may also experience similar symptoms before you reach the 30-day threshold for PTSD. If so, your doctor may diagnose you with acute stress disorder or ASD.

The Link Between Trauma and Substance Abuse

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, significant numbers of people turn to alcohol or drug use. That’s true whether or not they qualify for an ASD or PTSD diagnosis. What explains this increase in substance use? Specific reasons vary from person to person. However, one common motivation is an attempt to find relief through self-medication.

Indeed, alcohol and drugs can temporarily mask trauma exposure’s unpleasant effects. However, this is a deeply flawed coping strategy. Why? Alcohol and drugs cannot help you deal with the underlying causes of your lingering trauma reactions. What’s more, excessive drinking and drug use can:

  • Worsen the impact of certain ASD and PTSD symptoms
  • Increase your risks of severe accidents and injuries
  • Lead to the onset of a diagnosable substance use disorder

In other words, you may end up in a much worse situation than you were in previously.

Treating Trauma and Substance Abuse as Co-Occurring Disorders

When a substance use disorder occurs alongside ASD or PTSD, the result is a co-occurring disorder. Experts use this same term to describe all other combinations of substance problems and mental health conditions. How often do such combinations occur? If you have PTSD or ASD, you have a roughly 50/50 chance of developing a substance use disorder. Existing substance problems also increase your chances of developing ASD or PTSD following trauma exposure.

Co-occurring disorders require special attention in rehab programs. Your recovery plan must address the specific drug or alcohol problem affecting you. It must also manage your particular trauma disorder. Your customized recovery plan may include medication or psychotherapy. Even if you never develop ASD or PTSD, trauma therapy may help you recover from addiction.

Seek Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Near Denver at Northpoint Colorado

Need co-occurring disorders treatment near Denver? Turn to the specialists at Northpoint Colorado. We understand the potential overlapping effects of trauma and substance abuse. We also know what it takes to help you recover from these combined issues.

Northpoint Colorado’s recovery plans offer a customized approach to co-occurring disorder treatment. In all cases, we pick options that fit the needs of your unique situation. Northpoint also supports you with a separate trauma therapy program. To learn more, call us today at 970.579.4569. You can also contact us through our brief online form.