Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is usually caused by the experience of a traumatic or life-threatening event. For some, symptoms of PTSD can occur after being exposed to the results of a trauma or seeing a traumatic event threaten or harm someone (e.g., terrorist attack, physical or sexual assault, car accident, natural disaster, war experiences, etc.).
The symptoms can be highly intrusive to the person’s experience. They may include nightmares, an avoidance of anything related to the trauma, insomnia, extreme agitation, mood swings, anger management issues and panic attacks. Medication can be useful in the management of these symptoms, but in some cases, abuse of prescription drugs for the treatment of PTSD can lead to a co-occurring disorder: substance abuse or addiction.
There are a number of different kinds of medications that can be useful in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including antidepressants (e.g., sertraline, paroxetine), atypical antidepressants (e.g., mirtazapine, venlafaxine), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (e.g., isocarboxazid, phenelzine), mood stabilizers (e.g., carbamazepine, lithium), antipsychotics (e.g., risperidone and prazosin).
Determining the correct combination of medications and the right doses can take time. Unfortunately, some patients may end up struggling with prescription drug abuse as a result of abuse of the medication used to treat their PTSD, especially if they also use illicit substances, including alcohol.
It is rare for patients to abuse most of the medications used in the treatment of PTSD. Only anti-anxiety medications (e.g., benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax and others) can create a high that may be addictive to users. In an effort to avoid the symptoms of panic and anxiety that can be overwhelming, patients may take too much or feel unable to manage certain situations without taking high doses of their prescribed medication.
Any use of a prescription drug outside of a doctor’s orders is termed “abuse,” and cravings for the drug can signify an addiction – as does the inability to stop use of the drug despite increasing negative consequences. If prescription medication abuse or addiction is suspected, immediate treatment is recommended.
Medication alone is not enough to treat PTSD effectively. Rather, a range of therapeutic options is recommended to help patients process the traumatic event and learn how to manage symptoms. Some recommended therapies for PTSD treatment include:
If someone you love is struggling with a substance abuse disorder due to the medications they are taking for PTSD, treatment should address both the PTSD symptoms and the addiction disorder. Call now for more information and to be connected to a treatment program that can help.