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Addiction Complicates Treatment of PTSD

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A huge number of those who abuse drugs have suffered, or currently suffer from post traumatic stress disorder — the abuse of substances is often a way of coping with the symptoms of PTSD, or becomes a further addiction because of the way that substance abuse can help sufferers to forget, momentarily, the depth of their condition.

Those looking to treat their PTSD might happen upon an interesting phenomena in the medical world; oftentimes, treatment specialists will suggest to their patients that dealing with substance abuse must happen before PTSD symptoms can be treated. Instead of choosing to treat patients with dual symptoms of addiction of PTSD, and considering the intricacies of the shared symptoms and psychological reasons for substance abuse in PTSD sufferers, psychotherapists will instead insist that patients be substance-free before they can make any headway in dealing with PTSD.

Studies have shown, however, that addiction and PTSD can be treated simultaneously, without negative effect on either. In a study reported by the New York Times, 103 patients were treated, half with their choice of drug abuse therapy, and other with both their choice of drug abuse therapy and a psychotherapy session meant to deal primarily with PTSD symptoms. While neither group of patients were cured completely of their substance addiction, the patients who received psychotherapy for their PTSD symptoms saw a dramatic decrease in the severity of their symptoms, and the same decrease in the severity of their drug addiction as the patients who did not receive psychotherapy.

The method of therapy for the PTSD victims was primarily exposure therapy, or the use of small doses of exposure to the original trauma in order to rehabilitate the victims of PTSD. This means that the therapist, in a controlled setting, uses the history of the traumatic event or events to reduce symptoms by forcing the patient to deal with thoughts of the trauma. This has been proven to be effective in settings that are intimate, controlled, and involve only the therapist and the patient; in fact in group settings exposure therapy can even become more detrimental, depending on the patient or the severity of the moment of exposure.

In order to treat PTSD, it is vital to remember that dealing with patients is an art that requires grace, patience, and a huge amount of care. Like many psychological disorders, the sufferer is in a fragile state, and though recovery does require the patient to deal with their repressed emotions, which can become traumatic, it is also key not to make stress disorders worse by adding to the repressed repository of memories that the patient already possesses. Therapists that are trained in exposure treatments are often incredibly wary people, with an impressive perception of body language and vocal cues that would allow them to understand when the patient is too uncomfortable, and when treatment would be less beneficial.

Hypnotherapy is another way to treat PTSD, which is less traumatic for the patient than exposure therapy because the patient is in an altered state of consciousness. It can be less threatening for the patient to deal with the trauma, or even merely inform the therapist of the trauma, in a state in which they cannot recall their statements, because it then allows the therapist to have a thorough knowledge of the details of the condition without causing the patient further suffering. It also makes the hypnotherapist more aware of the trauma, so they can better treat the patient without causing undue stress. With recorded hypnotherapy sessions, patients have the ability to hear their own voice dealing with a trauma, which can also be more soothing than having to hear the information from the mouth of someone who did not have to deal with that particular trauma, like the therapist. By dealing with these symptoms in a way that is not too traumatic to the victim, the sufferer of PTSD can simultaneously deal with their PTSD symptoms and the accompanying drug abuse without fear of aggravating the stress disorder. N/A

Categories: Health
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