Today, when one hears the terms ‘trauma’ or ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD), one might be inclined to think first of a disorder suffered by some people in or out of military service who have been exposed to combat in the field. On the contrary, trauma or PTSD is hardly limited to the men and women who have bravely served their country. Survivors of natural catastrophes, victims of street crime or animal attack, and children of abusive parents are all survivors of trauma, and may suffer from PTSD.
Researchers and experts in the mental health field continue to make new discoveries regarding the role that trauma and PTSD play in the development of substance abuse disorders, drug addictions and alcoholism. Surviving trauma or being affected by PTSD does not automatically result in abuse or addiction to alcohol or drugs; but it has been shown to be a contributing factor in those cases involving abuse of or addiction to alcohol or drugs. The reason for this is many survivors of trauma turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate or to numb themselves to physical or psychological pain. Unfortunately, this self-medication (which can amount to alcohol or substance abuse) eventually aggravates any physical or mental condition already in evidence, and in some cases creates additional health issues.
Research over the past 25 years has made it possible for a trauma survivor with an alcohol or drug dependency challenge to successfully recover from both afflictions, as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. This type of condition is also referred to as a dual-diagnosis case, and needs to have both disorders diagnosed and an individualized treatment program devised. If the alcohol or drug addiction is addressed, but the trauma is not, this will endanger any possible positive outcome of treatment. Fortunately, trained professionals are qualified to make the diagnosis, and program appropriate treatments.