In some cases, people with PTSD turn to one or more substances to cope. If a person develops an addiction to alcohol, prescription painkillers, or illegal drugs, dual diagnosis treatment is essential. As the name implies, the treatment plan is for people with two separate diagnoses. The goal of dual diagnosis treatment is to address both co-occurring disorders at the same time. By treating both, the chances of recovery from addiction and PTSD symptom reduction are more favorable.
For example, imagine that a person with PTSD develops an addiction to prescription opioids. If the individual only seeks treatment for opioid addiction without seeking treatment for PTSD, the symptoms of PTSD remain. After the person detoxes from opioids, the symptoms of PTSD may drive the individual to seek opioids or another substance again. Research shows that relapse risks are higher for people with co-occurring disorders if they do not receive mental health treatment for both disorders. By treating PTSD properly, a therapist can help a person start to cope or heal. When this happens, there is less drive to seek a substance.
If a person requires an addictive medication for a medical condition, therapists may substitute other substances or find an alternative course of treatment for the medical condition. For example, someone with an injury that is slow to heal after surgery following a traumatic accident may become addicted to pain pills and use too many to cope with the trauma. Physical therapy can sometimes help people regain strength and reduce pain, but it is hard to stay in physical therapy when problematic symptoms persist. In such a case, physical therapy and PTSD treatment may help. The solution may be different for someone with pain that will not disappear from physical therapy. Each person’s health history and needs are unique, and professionals work hard to find the right solutions for every person.