It might be surprising just how closely related trauma and substance abuse (or PTSD and substance abuse) can be. When you experience a traumatic event or situation, your body reacts by releasing cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones shut off the parts of the brain that are responsible for reprocessing the traumatic events, essentially preventing your brain from processing and moving on from the event. The natural response to trauma is a constant state of “fight or flight,” i.e., the source of PTSD and anxiety from traumatic events.
Trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) bring about highly unpleasant symptoms that many people wish to minimize. If you are experiencing PTSD, you may have fatigue, depression, panic attacks, anxiety and guilt. You may also feel a sense of detachment, dissociation and low self-esteem. It’s also possible to experience flashbacks to the traumatic event or situation. Unresolved trauma and PTSD can also lead to sleep disturbances, nightmares, self-harm, physical pain and/or chronic illness, substance use or abuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Many people with PTSD seek out alcohol, marijuana or prescription depressants as a way to alleviate panic attacks and anxiety. Likewise, people with depression and fatigue stemming from PTSD may find passion and confidence in substances like cocaine or meth.
Unfortunately, while those substances may seem to alleviate the symptoms of trauma and PTSD in the short term, they’re more likely to exacerbate them. Also, they can compound PTSD by introducing a chemical dependence — which itself can lead to anxiety and other distressing symptoms. Also, addiction can impair judgment, leading to unwise choices and possibly further trauma.
First, we want to ensure that you’re stable. So, treatment often begins with medical drug or alcohol detox, allowing your body to rid itself of addictive substances that may be contributing to your PTSD symptoms. Hope Canyon’s medical team will be on hand 24/7 to make sure you’re safe and comfortable throughout the detox experience. And if the withdrawal symptoms become difficult at any point, we’ll make sure you have the medication you need to manage them.
Once you’ve safely undergone detox, we’ll begin the real work of substance abuse rehab: Therapy. When a client comes with a history of trauma, it’s not unusual for them to hold negative beliefs about themselves based on the trauma — such as shame, guilt or resentment. They often manifest physical symptoms as well, including increased anxiety, depression, emotional patterns like unstable relationships.
At Hope Canyon, we start by identifying those symptoms, then working together to move past them. Our evidence-based addiction treatment options for PTSD and substance abuse include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, as well as acceptance commitment therapy. These approaches, especially in tandem with our wellness curriculum, allow you to experience healing and balance. Using mindfulness, you’ll learn to live in the present — so your trauma no longer exerts the same degree of control over you.
When you’re ready to move on from the trauma that’s held you back, Hope Canyon is here. We can’t wait to help you find a way forward. Let’s talk — and work together for a healthier, more satisfying life.