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Freedom From Addiction is one of Canada's most innovative recovery homes, best known for providing individualized and holistic treatment approaches to guide clients towards a life of healing and sobriety. We have a team of qualified healthcare professionals and addiction specialists who combine their knowledge and expertise to address co-occurring cases of PTSD and addiction.

How PTSD Affects Addiction

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that occurs in individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events that may have put their life or overall safety at risk. These include natural disasters, war or military combat, serious accident, physical assault, or sexual abuse. 

In the past, PTSD was commonly referred to as "shell shock" and "combat fatigue" during World War I and II, respectively, because it was typically seen in veterans who came back from war. However, after many years of research, it was established that anyone could have PTSD, regardless of age, ethnicity, or cultural background.

Here's what we know about PTSD based on studies.

  • Canada has the highest incidence of PTSD in 24 countries studied, followed by the Netherlands, Australia, and the U.S. 
  • At least 9.2% of Canadians will suffer from PTSD in their lifetimes. 
  • About 10 of every 100 women (10%) in the U.S. develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men (4%).
  • Almost 50% of people with PTSD have a concurrent substance use disorder.
  • The majority or 80% of women seeking substance abuse treatment have lifetime histories of sexual or physical assault.

Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD symptoms are divided into four categories and vary in severity. 

  • Intrusive memories – Recurring nightmares or flashbacks of traumatic experiences 
  • Avoidance – Going to great lengths to avoid remembering or thinking about what happened to them, such as disassociating themselves from people, places, or potential triggers that may bring back unwanted memories.
  • Alterations in mood and thinking patterns – Becoming emotionally numb, blocking out memories related to the traumatic event, distorted self-image or perception about the cause and consequences of the experience. This leads to blaming one's self or other people, inability to hold positive emotions and an overwhelming rage, fear, shame, or guilt.
  • Drastic changes in emotional responses – Irritability and fits of anger, paranoia or constant skepticism of other people's intentions, insomnia, inability to focus on anything, reckless or self-destructive behaviours.

PTSD and addiction are strongly linked. Because of the overpowering emotions they have to endure, people who have PTSD turn to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope, forget, and numb themselves from feeling anything.

The Importance of Treating PTSD During Addiction Recovery

Due to their tendency to self-medicate, people seeking PTSD treatment are 14 times more likely to have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder. 

Like with other cases of concurrent disorders, it may be challenging to identify if someone is suffering from PTSD and addiction because of their isolated nature in keeping their unhealthy relationship with drugs and alcohol a secret. Living with PTSD and abusing addictive substances for a long period of time alters the brain's normal neurocircuitry, eventually requiring the individual to take higher doses to satiate cravings or to achieve the desired effect. This puts the individual at severe risk for toxic levels of alcohol exposure – resulting in drug overdose. Substance use also exacerbates PTSD symptoms by disrupting sleep, heightening anxiety, or worsening memory lapses. 

Substance use may offer a quick fix and temporary escape, but the truth is it also makes it harder for them to process and truly heal from their trauma. Without equally addressing both co-occurring conditions, medications and other interventions will not work as effectively. This is why addiction and PTSD treatment should happen simultaneously with a well-thought-of concurrent disorder treatment plan.

How PTSD Is Treated

There is no single best treatment method for co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorders. Successful concurrent disorder treatment plans for patients with PTSD and addiction are often composed of various therapies and interventions, particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and prolonged exposure therapy (PET).

At Freedom From Addiction, we acknowledge that co-occurring cases result from several contributing factors and different experiences unique to each client. Hence, we are committed to developing customized treatment plans and a firm believer in getting to the root cause of addiction versus doing a drug detox as a standalone solution.

At Freedom From Addiction, our concurrent disorder treatment program includes:

Medical Detox

An alcohol or drug detoxification process is the first step for individuals diagnosed with PTSD and addiction to guarantee compliance and effectiveness of treatments. Freedom From Addiction offers safe, effective, and medically guided drug detox programs that help the body flush out alcohol or drugs while providing necessary support for the patient to manage the withdrawal symptoms as comfortably as possible.

Drug Addiction Treatment

We offer different types of drug addiction treatment programs tailored to fit the client's personal needs. We have residential treatment, in-house or hospitalization, outpatient programs, and behavioural counselling. We also have an impressive team of medical professionals and addiction specialists who are qualified to treat all types of addiction, including illicit substances like:

Alcohol Addiction Treatment 

People with PTSD are twice as likely to develop alcohol dependence than the general population. Our co-occurring treatment can also be customized to fit clients suffering from PTSD and alcohol abuse disorder or alcoholism. Freedom From Addiction's alcohol addiction treatment services involve:

  • Helping families and friends stage interventions
  • Providing detoxification and psychosocial support designed to address drinking problems
  • Conducting individual and group counselling sessions for maintaining abstinence and relapse prevention
  • Giving family therapy and emotional support for loved ones who may have been hurt or want to be involved in the healing process.

Mental Health Treatment

The core of our co-occurring treatment here at Freedom From Addiction is our mental health treatment program. Aside from identifying the risk factors, past trauma, and potential triggers that may have resulted in the clients' PTSD and addiction, this aspect is also designed to teach them how to unlearn negative thinking patterns, emotions, and unhealthy coping mechanisms by replacing them with positive behaviours.

Our mental health treatment involves integrative therapies, such as: 

Our Integrated PTSD and Addiction Treatment Approach

Despite what we now know from mounting studies about the pivotal role of co-occurring treatments in addressing concurrent disorders of PTSD and addiction, the fact remains that it's a service that's still far from becoming readily available in most drug rehab centres in the country. Unfortunately, many government-funded addiction treatment facilities in the country do not have the necessary resources, expertise, or personnel to provide this specialty service. As a result, many people are left without any choice except to wait until they complete their addiction or PTSD treatment before getting a referral for their substance use disorder or vice-versa, increasing risks of dropping out from rehab or relapsing. 

Our team at Freedom From Addiction has done an extensive review of the available scientific literature regarding addiction and co-occurring disorders. We recognize the importance of treating both chronic illnesses simultaneously with individualized concurrent disorder treatment plans and continuing care programs.

Let's start a challenging but rewarding journey towards healing and sobriety. To learn how we can make a difference in the life of a loved one who has been diagnosed with PTSD and addiction, contact Freedom From Addiction today!

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