June marks the 8th annual PTSD Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (USVA), about 8 million people in the U.S. currently suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD), which can result from several different types of trauma including military combat, violent incidents, sexual abuse and serious accidents, among others. This past year has been a particularly challenging time given the COVID-19 crisis, leading to predictions that many people have or will exhibit symptoms of PTSD related to the pandemic. In fact, a study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry found that upwards of 32 percent of those who suffered severe COVID-19 infections were then diagnosed with PTSD.

The Connection Between PTSD and Substance Abuse

You may be asking: what does this have to do with substance use disorders? Since SUD often manifests as a result of trauma, it’s not surprising that PTSD and SUD are closely linked. It’s even been shown that substance addiction changes brain chemistry in a very similar way that PTSD does. Data from the USVA shows that three-quarters of people who have survived violent or abusive trauma, regardless of whether they’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, report alcohol use disorders. And a recent Forbes article reports that “34.5% of men and 26.9% of women who had PTSD at some point in their lifetime also had a problem with drug abuse or dependence.” 

Trauma can cause the brain to reduce production of endorphins, which significantly impacts mood. As a result, people battling PTSD sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to get a short-lived, but effective mood boost. With time, reliance on these substances to not only lift their mood, but also keep depression and anxiety at bay, leads to addiction.

How to Get Help with SUDs Resulting From Trauma

Whether you’ve struggled with PTSD for years or the trauma of 2020 has led you to rely on the comfort of drugs and alcohol, Lionrock offers both in and outpatient programs, as well as free online support group meetings tailored to a number of different interests and communities. Also check out our podcast, The Courage to Change, for inspirational first-hand accounts of recovery, including episode 9 which features Kacie Margis and her story of recovery following multiple traumas including the Route 91 mass shooting in Las Vegas.

For more information on how to recognize and participate in National PTSD Awareness Month, visit the USVA website here.