The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval

Recognized symbol of highest treatment standards and quality of care.

Among other symptoms, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are often haunted by disturbing flashbacks to past incidents of violence, physical trauma or emotional abuse. At their most severe the symptoms of PTSD can be highly stressful and disabling, leaving sufferers feeling trapped without a route of escape.

Given the persistent and overwhelming nature of PTSD, it is hardly surprising that a significant number of its victims turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to relieve their pain. But drugs and alcohol only mask the symptoms of PTSD temporarily, before they return at full intensity. Rather than looking for help elsewhere, some PTSD suffers return to drugs and alcohol again and again, until chemical dependency develops and they no longer have the ability to resist the cravings.

Addiction rates are sky high among those who suffer from this mental health disorder. Between one-third and one-half of men and women diagnosed with PTSD will develop a drug or alcohol addiction at some point in their lives, which can magnify their suffering significantly.

Ideally, people with PTSD would receive treatment early enough to avoid encounters with drugs and alcohol. But regardless of the circumstances it is never too late to find wellness.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder locks you into unhealthy and unpleasant emotional states from which you cannot fully recover. The traumatic events responsible for PTSD are your constant companion, invading your dreams and disrupting your daily life in frightening and unexpected ways. You’ll adopt avoidance behaviors to protect yourself from the anguish and paralyzing anxiety, but this will only reinforce the condition and allow it to control you even more.

Symptoms will range from moderate-to-severe, but regardless of their intensity they are persistent and will leave you feeling as if you’ve lost control of your emotional well-being.

Symptoms of PTSD

It is normal for those who undergo painful or tragic events to experience some emotional scarring. But when PTSD develops your symptoms of distress will be frequent and unmanageable and will become more powerful over time. They will make it difficult to function in a variety of circumstances.

The most commonly experienced symptoms of PTSD include:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Flashbacks (mental replays of the trauma so vivid they seem like real-life events).
  • Recurrent nightmares.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Constant anticipatory anxiety (always feeling “on edge”).
  • Paralyzing fear in non-threatening situations.
  • Anger management troubles, uncontrollable rages.
  • Overreaction to relatively minor threats or conflicts.
  • Sensitivity to sights, sounds and odors that never provoked discomfort in the past.
  • Hyper-vigilance.
  • A desire for quiet and isolation.
  • Paranoia and a deep mistrust of strangers (sometimes even of friends).
  • Feelings of depression, hopelessness or despair.

These symptoms are often triggered by experiences that might seem harmless to others. But in the minds of PTSD victims they are somehow associated with past trauma, and as a result they evoke a powerful emotional response. In these moments reality is altered in the mind of the PTSD sufferer, making the world a scary and threatening place.

Causes of PTSD

Any kind of experience with trauma, either direct (it happened to you) or indirect (it happened to someone you know) could lead to PTSD. Sometimes the disorder develops quickly, while other times it may take months or even years before symptoms become noticeable.

Your chances of developing PTSD could be significantly elevated if you if you’ve had previous exposure to or been the victim of any of the following:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Physical, psychological or sexual abuse in childhood.
  • Rape or serious sexual harassment.
  • Armed robbery or assault.
  • Being threatened with a gun or other weapon.
  • Natural disaster.
  • Warfare, as a combatant or innocent bystander.
  • The sudden death of a spouse, child or loved one.
  • A car accident.
  • Cancer, heart attack or other life-threatening condition.
  • Domestic abuse.

In addition to your own suffering, repeated exposure to the suffering or trauma of others can in fact lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Terrible, frightening acts don’t have to happen to you, or even someone you love, to make a huge impact in your life.

Risk Factors for PTSD

Some people who experience significant trauma will develop full-fledged PTSD while others will not. Here are a few factors that could put you at greater risk for PTSD, should they be a part of your life history:

Anorexia Nervosa:

  • The trauma you experienced was highly intense, caused extensive physical or emotional damage or was repeated over a significant period of time.
  • You were a victim of child abuse, especially of a sexual nature.
  • You’ve suffered from other types of mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Your family has a history of PTSD.
  • You’ve served in the military (and seen combat action) or worked as a police officer, firefighter, paramedic or in another type of job that puts you face-to-face with serious human or animal suffering.

Why Do PTSD Victims Turn to Drugs and Alcohol?

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a relentless condition, leaving those who suffer from its symptoms desperate to find salvation. Drugs and alcohol cannot offer this—in fact they bring just the opposite—but when victims of PTSD are scared, lonely and overwhelmed by anxiety they will do just about anything to make the stress and anguish go away, at least for a little while.

Most PTSD sufferers do not get the therapy they need to manage their conditions, making them vulnerable to the lure of drugs and alcohol. Self-medicating for emotional health problems is always a terrible idea, and once someone with PTSD begins using drugs or alcohol to dull their pain addiction can develop at warp speed.

While substance abuse often follows PTSD and the symptoms it provokes, in some instances the cause-and-effect relationship is reversed. People with drug or alcohol disorders are more likely to be victims of violence and abuse, be involved in serious accidents or experience life-threatening physical health troubles. All of this can lead to PTSD, complicating an already-existing substance abuse problem.

Statistics on PTSD and Substance Abuse

Approximately eight percent of the U.S. population will suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. About five percent, or 13 million American adults, will have PTSD at any given time.

(The PTSD Alliance)

As many as 70 percent of all Americans will be exposed to significant trauma and one-in-five will go on to develop PTSD.

(The PTSD Alliance)

Men and women diagnosed with PTSD are two-to-four-times more likely to meet the criteria for a substance abuse disorder.

(National Comorbidity Survey)

Among those who have been diagnosed with PTSD, 46 percent register positive for a substance abuse disorder and more than 22 percent meet the criteria for substance dependence, a predictor of future addiction.

(2010 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions)

Treatment for a PTSD/Substance Abuse Dual Diagnosis

In dual diagnosis treatment each disorder is given full priority. Treatment services for addiction and PTSD will be integrated and smoothly coordinated to make sure each day spent in a residential treatment center is productive, bringing the patient one step closer to a dual recovery.

After the evaluation and diagnosis stage has been completed, for many patients detox for drug or alcohol dependency will have to be administered first. The detox program, which will take place in a hospital-like setting, may last for a few days or possibly a few weeks, depending on the depth of the drug/alcohol addiction and the patient’s progress through withdrawal.

Once detox has been completed treatment for the co-occurring disorders can begin. Working with psychological counselors, physicians, medical specialists and addiction treatment experts, the patient will participate in an extensive menu of recovery-related activities.

This will include some combination of one-to-one, group and family therapy, plus life-skills classes, mind-body healing courses, possibly medication (in some cases but not in all) and a host of customized activities designed to meet the unique needs of the individual.

With PTSD one-to-one counseling sessions will be especially critical, as those suffering from this condition need a safe, comfortable and peaceful environment to work through their stress issues constructively and proactively.

When the patient’s stint in rehab is finished, he or she should emerge feeling refreshed and invigorated, clean and sober and ready for a life without drugs and alcohol—and free from the iron grip of the worst symptoms of PTSD. Aftercare services will of course be provided to help the patient strengthen their commitment to permanent healing.

Our Treatment Program for PTSD and Substance Abuse

Men and women with co-occurring PTSD and chemical dependency will have to work hard to regain their sobriety and a peaceful state of mind. But with the right guidance and support this is a mountain that can be conquered.

– Nick Russie, Co-Founder

At FootPrints BHC you’ll be working with experienced and highly qualified psychiatrists, therapists, physicians, nurses, addiction counselors and mind-body healing experts. When you come to a FootPrints Behavioral Health Center for treatment services you’ll be in compassionate hands, from day one until the time comes for you to return home.

During your individual, group and family counseling sessions we will help you explore your personal history and struggles with both PTSD and substance abuse. Moment-by-moment and day-by-day, you’ll learn to face your past honestly and without fear while taking full responsibility for creating a better future.

You’ll also focus on developing practical strategies for coping with the disabling symptoms of PTSD, re-training your mind to manage even the most painful memories without undue anxiety or distress. To assist you in this process, we’ll introduce you to a variety of holistic methods for healing that will help you restore your emotional equilibrium. As you deepen your knowledge of these mind-body techniques, you’ll equip yourself with tools for self-empowerment and self-improvement that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

At FootPrints BHC we can help you build an achievement-filled future, free from chemical dependency and no longer limited by PTSD or any other mental health issues.

How to Help a Family Member with PTSD and a Substance Abuse Disorder

During and after treatment, victims of PTSD need the loving support of friends and family members, as they learn how to cope with symptoms that can cause them great emotional pain. When substance abuse enters the picture, it is even more vital that loved ones take an active role in the healing process.

To make a positive impact, you should do your best to remain hopeful, optimistic and encouraging. However, you should never pressure your loved one to talk or share when they are not ready to do so. You must respect their need for privacy even as you do everything in your power to help them build a bridge to a brighter tomorrow.

If they lash out at you or reject your overtures don’t take it personally. Just withdraw for a while and be ready to step back in again when they are ready to re-connect.

When they have a loving, caring support network to back them up, men and women suffering from addiction or mental illness have a much greater chance of making a permanent recovery. If you can weather the storm in your loved one’s hour of need it will make a difference, of this you can be certain.




Free 1-on-1 online consultation with an addiction specialist.

Get Started


Free insurance verification and benefits check.

Get Started


Free consultation on treatment program financing options.

Get Started


Talk to us


"Pilot Program Helps Improve Transportation for Addicts Seeking Recovery"

Surprisingly, one of the biggest hindrances for seeking treatment for addiction is transportation. Some addicts…

Read More »

"Going Public With Your Recovery Story: Pros and Cons"

Having an addiction still carries an unfortunate stigma to it. Though much has been improved…

Read More »

"Avoiding Other Addictions After Sobriety: The Main Non-Drug Addictions to Steer Clear From"

There are so many addictions that have nothing to do with addictions to drugs or…

Read More »

"Alcohol is Still the Biggest Killer: Recent Celebrity Death Sparks National Debate on Solutions to This Deadly Disease"

Last week, yet another famous celebrity succumbed to the disease of alcoholism. One of the…

Read More »

"How-to Help An Addict: Top 25 Addiction Experts Share Their Insight"

Welcome to our monthly round-up of industry professionals and their expert advice. Each month we…

Read More »

"Choosing the Best Rehab Facility: 5 Factors to Consider"

Many addicts are able to attend AA meetings, follow the 12 steps, get a sponsor,…

Read More »

"Controversial Drug Treatment to Combat Addiction: MDMA for Alcoholism"

There have been numerous medicinal treatments and prescriptions for alcoholism throughout history. These vary from…

Read More »

"Top 4 Movies to Watch About Addiction: Footprints Makes Our Picks"

Last week, we talked about the 5 best books to read about the disease of…

Read More »

"Controversial Healthcare Bill May Affect People Seeking Addiction Treatment"

It’s always stressful when Washington gets involved in the lives of everyday people. Even those…

Read More »

"When Church Isn’t Enough: Spirituality & Religion in Recovery"

A recent New York Times article cited a pastor who has recently opened up a…

Read More »

"Footprints Attends the CCAP Lunch and CE Event in Santa Monica, CA"

So many people across the country are suffering from the disease of addiction and have…

Read More »

"Books to Read About Addiction: Our Top Five Suggestions"

Becoming knowledgeable about one’s disease is the first step towards recovery. Many addicts have heard…

Read More »

"Changing the Way We Address Addiction: How Language Affects the Disease"

There has always been a fine line between defining addiction as a medical condition and…

Read More »

"Can Prisons Solve the Heroin Crisis? New Techniques to Treat the Incarcerated"

In the movie 28 Days with Sandra Bullock, we meet a young protagonist who is…

Read More »

"Restless, Irritable, and Discontent: Learning to Stay Still in Recovery"

One of the biggest obstacles addicts face in recovery is learning how to be content…

Read More »

"Pregnant and Addicted: Rethinking a Taboo Crisis"

A pregnant alcoholic and meth addict shared her gut-wrenching story to NPR. After missing her…

Read More »

"Kratom: A Cure for Opioid Addiction, or Just Another Addiction Itself?"

Last year, you may have heard of a controversial decision in which the DEA decided…

Read More »

"After Detox: Making it Through Early Sobriety with Post Acute Withdrawal"

Most addicts continue to use less for the euphoric effect of their drug of choice,…

Read More »

"Overcoming Opiate Withdrawal: 5 Tips for Moving Forward"

When we think of opiate withdrawal, we are often reminded of somewhat cartoonish depictions in…

Read More »

"Growing up Drunk: 3 Ways Alcoholic Parents Affect Their Children"

Childhood is a delicate thing. Though some say that children are resilient, others maintain that…

Read More »

"Step 12: Sponsorship and the Power of Community in Recovery"

Once we’ve worked through the first 11 steps in recovery, we feel like its time…

Read More »

"The Problem With Moderation: Why Abstinence is the Only Way Towards Freedom"

Several years ago, the founder of Moderation Management, Audrey Conn, found herself in some hot…

Read More »

"What Did Your Addiction Do For You?: 3 Reasons Why You Used and How to Fix It"

When most of us think about drug and alcohol addicts, we think about the negative…

Read More »

"Depression and Boredom in Early Sobriety: 3 Tips For Getting Past the Pink Cloud"

When we first decide to get sober, many of us are overcome with an initial…

Read More »

"The Creative Mind and the Addict"

Famous authors, painters, and philosophical thinkers have struggled with addiction throughout history. Edgar Allan Poe…

Read More »

"Drinking is Expected: Tips on Handling Career Related Drinking Cultures"

“Courage is grace under pressure.”-Ernest Hemingway  Sam had a lucrative career as a salesman for…

Read More »

"The History of Addiction in America: An Opioid Epidemic Over Centuries"

The current opioid epidemic in America may seem like the first of its kind, but…

Read More »

"Transferring Addictions: Are Addicts Always Doomed to be Addicts?"

Fiona injured her back months ago. She went to the doctor, got a prescription for…

Read More »

"Addiction & Breaking Free from Codependent Relationships"

One of the most pressing problems that addicts face are the unhealthy, codependent relationships they…

Read More »

"Dual Diagnosis: Managing Addiction When Medication is the Only Option"

The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous serve to get an addict sober…

Read More »

"Step 2 Struggles: The Power of a Higher Power in Recovery"

Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to…

Read More »

"Legal and Natural Gateway Drugs: Watching Out for Accidental Relapses"

The most well known legal drug available is alcohol. There’s the bar down the street,…

Read More »

"Addictive Personalities: Are Positive Addictions Better Than Negative Ones?"

Most addicts have sensed from the time they were children that it was difficult to…

Read More »

"New Mothers That Drink: Causes and Treatments for a Taboo Addiction"

Sarah had never had a problem with alcohol or drugs before having a child. She…

Read More »

"Quitting on Will Alone: Why Community is Essential for Recovery"

George A. Sheehan, a physician, athlete, and writer exclaimed, “We may think that there is…

Read More »

"2017 Event: Footprints Celebrating Innovations in Recovery"

This April marks an important time for those suffering from addiction. Counselors, addiction specialists, and…

Read More »

"4 Tips That Can Help You Maintain Your Sobriety"

Katie had been sober for 6 months. She was feeling healthy and confident, believing that…

Read More »

"Does the Disease Concept for Addiction Hurt or Help Recovery?"

Scientists, psychologists, writers, and philosophers have been studying addiction for hundreds of years. Edgar Allen…

Read More »

"6 Tips for the Newly Sober Person on St. Patrick’s Day"

Holidays are a time for laughter, cheer, and celebration amongst friends and family. Most of…

Read More »

"Dating in Sobriety: Five Tips to Make it Work"

Recovering addicts often share how previous relationships during their drinking and drug use days were…

Read More »

"Recovering From a Relapse: 3 Steps For Starting Over"

Relapsing to drugs and alcohol is an all too common occurrence for those working a…

Read More »

"Interview with an Addict: How Rehab & the 12 Steps Saved My Life"

Brian is a recovering alcoholic and addict. In his 15 years of sobriety, he has…

Read More »

"Holistic Treatments for Addiction: A Viable Option?"

Over the past few decades, there have been many psychologists and addiction treatment specialists who…

Read More »

"Raising Awareness: #WorldMentalHealthDay #Glitch"

What is World Mental Health Day? On the 10th of October everyone is asked to…

Read More »

"FootPrint’s Celebrating #NationalRecoveryMonth 2016"

This September represents a hugely important month for addicts past and present across the United…

Read More »

"A Quiet Epidemic: Substance Abuse Among Nurses"

Drug abuse among nurses is a serious issue that can affect patient care and safety,…

Read More »

"Research Studies: Substance Abuse Among College Students"

Unfortunately, sometimes that newfound freedom leads them down the wrong path. Nearly all college students…

Read More »

"A Parent’s Guide: Preventing College Alcohol and Drug Abuse"

What is Substance Abuse? Use of drugs or alcohol or other addictive substance becomes abuse…

Read More »

"Best Way to Detox from Alcohol: The Definitive Guide"

The choice of which rehab program may be determined by: your needs, your ability to…

Read More »

"The Link between PTSD and Alcoholism"

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be one of the most intrusive and emotionally devastating mental…

Read More »

"How To Choose The Best Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Center"

Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism The difference between the two is one of degree. Alcoholics have…

Read More »

"The Truth About Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment"

The effects of alcohol withdrawal can be very severe. In some cases, the withdrawal symptoms…

Read More »

"What is Alcoholism?"

Alcoholism is a broad term for the abuse of alcohol. In most cases, it refers…

Read More »

"Signs of Alcoholism"

The American Medical Association defines alcoholism, or alcohol dependence as “a primary, chronic disease with…

Read More »