If you’re dealing with PTSD and substance abuse, you know that it’s a tricky combination to manage. PTSD can leave you feeling overwhelmed and make it extremely hard to cope with daily life.

There is hope for recovery. With the right treatment and support, you can learn tools to manage your PTSD symptoms and find healthier ways to cope with your emotions. Let us walk you through all of the treatment options available for those struggling with both PTSD and substance abuse here at 449 Recovery in Mission Viejo, California.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that can occur after a person experiences an event that causes them extreme fear or distress. People with PTSD may experience symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, avoidance of certain situations, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, and an exaggerated startle response. It is a severe condition that has to be properly diagnosed and treated.

PTSD symptoms can increase the risk of substance abuse, as people may misuse drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their painful memories and feelings.

PTSD Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person and can occur at different times after the traumatic event. The following are among the most common signs:

  • Intrusive thoughts: Recurring and unwanted thoughts, memories, or nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, or situations that remind the person of the traumatic event.
  • Negative mood: Feeling detached, numb, guilty, or ashamed. The excitement about hobbies or pastimes that one formerly loved is suddenly gone.
  • Hyperarousal: Being easily startled, irritable, or having difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Flashbacks: Feeling as if the traumatic event is happening again, experiencing physical sensations and emotions similar to those experienced during the event.

These symptoms can be severe and long-lasting. It can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life and interfere with work, relationships, and general day-to-day functioning. It’s crucial to get medical attention if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms.

Contact 449 Recovery Today!

Find The Help You Need By Reaching Out To Us Today!

PTSD Causes and Factors

Exposure to one or more traumatic incidents that threaten or result in actual death, major injury, or sexual violence can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of the factors that may lead to PTSD are as follows:

  • Traumatic Events: PTSD can develop after exposure to a traumatic experience such as a natural disaster, sexual assault, war, or major accident.
  • Genetic: There is evidence that certain people may be more genetically inclined to get PTSD.
  • Brain Chemistry: Variations in the levels of different neurotransmitters in the brain (such as serotonin and norepinephrine) can affect how a person responds to stress and trauma, leading to PTSD.
  • Age: Children and teenagers may be more susceptible to acquiring PTSD because of their undeveloped coping skills.
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions: A pre-existing mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, may make someone more susceptible to acquiring PTSD.
  • Social Support: The likelihood of having PTSD can rise in the absence of a strong social support system.

Why Do People With PTSD Use Drugs More Often?

People with PTSD are more likely to use drugs and engage in substance abuse because they use these substances to deal with the emotional discomfort brought on by their experience. Studies have found that people suffering from PTSD are up to five times more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those without.

Another reason is due to an unstable environment. Individuals who have experienced trauma are more likely to have grown up in unstable surroundings without good role models or support systems. Not only does this increase the chance of developing PTSD, but they are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

PTSD often co-occurs with other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. People with these conditions are also at an increased risk of using drugs, which can worsen their symptoms.

People with PTSD may develop a higher tolerance to drugs over time, which can lead to dependency and potentially addiction if left untreated. Dependency leading to addiction is an exttremely common occurrence.

The correlation between PTSD and substance abuse is complicated, so understanding how they interact is the key to managing treatment options if you find yourself in this situation. Knowing your triggers and what resources are available for help can make a big difference when taking appropriate steps toward recovery.

Statistics on PTSD and Drug Abuse

According to the U.S. Department of Health, 3.6% of American adults, or around 9 million people, have PTSD. Severe symptoms are seen in about 37% of people with PTSD diagnoses. PTSD is substantially more common in women than in men.

The numbers get even worse when we consider suicide rates related to PTSD and drug abuse. According to preliminary figures from the National Vital Statistics System, 44,834 Americans have committed suicide in 2020.  In the said year, 0.5%, or 1.2 million people, of adults 18 and older attempted suicide. Followed by adults aged 26 to 49 with 0.4% or 452,000 people, then by adults who are 50 or older with 0.1% or 124,000 people.

Meaningful support and treatment are invaluable—not just for people in the United States but everywhere—as they seek help dealing with their trauma and addiction.


Treating PTSD and Addiction

Although treating PTSD and addiction at the same time can be challenging, numerous approaches have been proven to be successful. Traditional therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and talk therapy, are some of the most commonly used methods for treating both PTSD and addiction issues. For those seeking alternative therapy options, mindfulness-based approaches have also been shown to be effective.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that has been considered to be the most effective approach for treating PTSD in both the short and long term. This therapy focuses on identifying, understanding, and altering thought and behavior patterns. It is trauma-focused, which means the treatment is centered on your traumatic experiences. CBT treatment normally involves 12–16 weeks of sessions along with activities in between appointments.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) eliminates the need for patients to talk about their experiences or concerns with a therapist. The patient would only need to focus on the memory when the therapist makes a hand motion, light, or create sound. The goal is to gradually replace the traumatic thought in the patient’s mind with a positive one. Typically, three months of weekly sessions are needed for this treatment.

Group Therapy

A form of psychotherapy known as “group therapy” involves multiple patients attending the same session. A session is often run by one or more qualified specialists with expertise in either post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma, or both. The group can be made up of a handful to about 20 participants and could be open or closed. A closed group mandates registration and starts on the same day. While an open group permits members to come and go as they want.

Group therapy may be targeted towards specific forms, such as for those experiencing PTSD and a co-occurring mental health condition, or those that assist in the empowerment and healing of female survivors of abuse, and the like.


While one of the above-described therapies is being performed, medications may also be given at the same time. Some of the drugs prescribed as short-term solutions include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines. SSRIs are antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It can help manage PTSD symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Benzodiazepines, on the other hand, are quick-acting medications that are effective but when taken inappropriately can lead to addiction.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies

This type of therapy focuses on raising present-moment awareness and acceptance. The most well-known and commonly used of these treatments are mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

MBSR consists of eight weeks of group sessions lasting two to two and a half hours. It is followed by a full-day retreat of silent meditation in week six. These sessions feature a variety of techniques, such as daily mindfulness practice, weekly homework assignments, stress management discussions, yoga, and mindfulness meditation.

MBCT uses a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). The goal is to change awareness of and relationships with thoughts by promoting a “decentred” perspective (i.e., “thoughts are not facts”). This therapy particularly focuses on reducing residual symptoms and strives to avoid relapse.

PTSD is a treatable condition. Find out the best treatment option at 449 Recovery!

Can PTSD and Substance Abuse Co-Occur?

Yes! Studies have reported that different forms of substance use (alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens) are associated with an increased risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event.

PTSD and alcoholism can be interconnected. People with PTSD may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with their symptoms. While excessive alcohol use can make PTSD symptoms worse, it is important to treat not just one issue.  A comprehensive approach that addresses both PTSD and alcoholism can lead to better outcomes.

PTSD and alcoholism can be both isolating and challenging, so it’s important to connect with supportive people and resources. This can include family and friends, support groups, or mental health professionals. Remember that it takes time and effort, but recovery from this co-occurring disorder is possible.

The relationship between PTSD and marijuana use is complex and can differ for each individual. Some people with PTSD may turn to marijuana as a way to manage symptoms such as anxiety or sleep disturbances. While marijuana can temporarily ease some PTSD symptoms, it can also impair the brain’s capacity to absorb emotions and memories. In some instances, it may potentially worsen symptoms in the long term.

If you or someone you know is considering using marijuana for PTSD, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to weigh the potential risks and benefits and explore other treatment options.

Prescription drugs can be an effective treatment for PTSD, along with other therapies.  It’s important to take them safely and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. There are various medications that are used to manage PTSD symptoms. Some of these include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and sleep aids. These all have potential risks and side effects, so take them exactly as prescribed and do not change the dosage.

Keep in mind that a comprehensive treatment plan for PTSD includes more than just medicine. It’s crucial to consult with a mental health specialist. They can create a personalized treatment plan that considers your unique symptoms and needs.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can affect the body and mind in a variety of ways. It can increase feelings of alertness, energy, and euphoria. But, it can also have several unfavorable side effects, including depression, paranoia, and anxiety. It has been claimed that cocaine can interfere with PTSD treatment and may lead to poor results. Just as with any other drug, it’s essential to refrain from using this one if you want to effectively manage your PTSD symptoms.

Methamphetamine is another extremely addictive stimulant that can have a wide range of adverse impacts on the body and mind. Meth, as this substance is commonly called, can have long-term negative effects on both physical and mental health. Some individuals with PTSD may turn to this drug to treat their symptoms. But doing so runs the risk of making their condition worse and can also lead to addiction.

Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal opioid drug that is derived from morphine. This substance can be injected, smoked, or snorted. It produces a quick, intense feeling of euphoria or a “rush” by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. Abusing heroin can also result in several health processes, such as liver and heart damage, or worse, death.

Recovery From PTSD and Addiction: Steps for Moving Forward

If you’re facing PTSD and addiction, it’s important to know that you can overcome these challenges and live a happy, healthy life. Though it could take some time and effort, recovery is unquestionably possible. Here are the first three actions you can take:

  1. Seek Professional Help. The first step toward recovery is finding a trained mental health professional who has experience treating both PTSD and addiction. They can assess your situation and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. They can also provide support and guidance during difficult times, and help you develop strategies for avoiding relapse.
  2. Develop Healthy Coping Skills. Healthy coping skills can make all the difference when it comes to managing both your PTSD symptoms. Also, it could help you in avoiding drug use and other unhealthy activities. Learning relaxation exercises, yoga, or meditation can be highly helpful for controlling distressing feelings that cause addictive behaviors.
  3. Find Supportive People in Your Life. A good support system is essential for long-term recovery from any type of disorder. Consider joining a group for people with PTSD and addiction, reaching out to family or friends who understand your

Discover the Best Treatment at 449 Recovery

With the right tools and resources in place, you can find hope amid the darkness of your condition. Discover more about PTSD and addiction, their causes, and the programs available for you or your loved one at 449 Recovery’s mental health treatment center in Mission Viejo, CA. Contact our team now!