Cause-And-Effect Relationship between PTSD and Addiction

It is a common medical practice addicts are tested for co-occurring physical and mental conditions each time they seek treatment. In many of those occasions they have actually been diagnosed with various forms of the same. Very much common among them is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are several accounts as to the connection between these two. One such theory is based on the fact many victims of PTSD have drug addiction or related issues. And there are available data that pretty much supports this.

According to a commonly cited report, an estimated 8% of Americans have suffered PTSD at one point in their lives. Out of them 34% men and 27% women have recorded drug addiction. Again, 52% men and 28% women victims of PTSD tested alcoholics. Given the statistics, PTSD ranks very highly among predisposing factors to drug addiction; that is, when compared with other forms of co-occurring physical and mental medical conditions.

From PTSD to Addiction; Escape Theory

The first explanation, rather one that is considered too obvious is that patients with PTSD related symptoms including: insomnia, pervasiveness, nightmares and mood swings sought escape in drugs. This according to proponents of the theory was one way the patients got reprieve from physical, psychosocial and the emotional pains.

With time more exploratory studies have been done. Some of these opine, suggest the reason many PTSD victims are diagnosed with drug addiction was broader than that. They do not however contradict the fact the paradigm of escape has offered a good part of the reason PTSD and addiction have such a relationship. For instance alcohol is a great depressant, given the statistics above it could as well be true very many resort to drinking the addictive substance in order to discharge their “pains”.

Cause-Effect PTSD Addiction Relationship; Increased-Risk Theory

Other than that the increased-risk philosophy also posits a cause-and-effect kind of relationship between PTSD and drug addiction. Proponents here argue before PTSD can develop a traumatic incident must occur first. They also posit the drug abusers often expose themselves to higher risks of such traumatic events. The point here is in as much as various PTSD symptoms very much pushes victims into drug use and addiction the vice versa is also true; that sometimes those already addicted may as well through their acts develop PTSD.


From Addiction to PTSD; Vulnerability Theory

Some scientific researchers also argue whether PTSD symptoms come first or last, they have the ability to either cause an addiction or PTSD or make them perennial. Vulnerability theorists do not concern themselves with which causes what between these two, rather they concentrate on effects of PTSD symptoms and experiences of addicts on the functioning of their brains. Intoxicants for instance they argue have damaging effects on the brain that may make it very difficult for an addict to recover in this case therefore making it possible they develop persistent PTSD.

It has been established genetic factors make some people more susceptible to drug and alcohol addiction. In a recent study conducted by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, it was found there is a link between particular genetic components and symptoms of PTSD. While there are no specific explanations yet as to why PTSD and addiction commonly co-exists, it is anticipated continued research may provide the missing links.

Effects Created by Co-Occurring Drug Addiction and PTSD

Effects of addiction far go beyond influencing a person’s body functions to both their physical and psychosocial lives. They include among others; physical pains, mental and emotional pains, relationship problems, work related problems, anger, memory loss, family quarrels and fits, depression, irritability, and problems falling asleep. PTSD pretty much has similar effects on its victims, which makes people who exhibit both PTSD and Addiction often perennial problems, for them these issues never seize. Such include: They tend to have escalated forms of these symptoms, hence making it much more difficult to get treated from any either drug addiction or PTSD.

Treatment Options for PTSD and Addiction

There are well over 17 medically recognized symptoms linked to PTSD, which clearly indicates just how troublesome it can be in the lives of victims. It is therefore prudent to seek relevant treatment for PTSD while seeking addiction related therapy. On the other hand drug addiction has a tendency to influence recognition of the brain to various drugs and related medical conditions. Drug addiction therefore has the capacity to make healing from PTSD very difficult. Treating both PTSD and addiction therefore requires a simultaneous approach.


The first stride when for a patient with both conditions is to talk to his/her physician and seek more information about the treatment options. Medical scientific research evidence shows patients with both PTSD and SUD symptoms generally improve when provided with treatment options that addresses both conditions, which may involve among others the following:


  1. Behavioral couples therapy
  2. cognitive behavioral treatments (CBT)
  3. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

For more information on the above, click The link will also guide you on how to sign up for an upcoming Integrative Addiction Medicine Conference. You will also find a backgrounder about speakers lined up for the conference. If you need to learn some of the most recent studies on both PTSD, addiction, genetic transfer along generations, their relation, and more treatment options, the event is a must attend.