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Addiction and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) frequently co-occur, with research indicating that up to 50% of people seeking treatment for substance abuse also have PTSD. The exact cause is unknown, though hypotheses include genetic, neurobiological or environmental factors, as well as susceptibility and self-medication. If you are recovering from substance abuse disorder, and you also have PTSD, what therapeutic and practical/legal approaches can help you along the way?

Obtaining Legal Compensation

Obtaining legal compensation for PTSD caused by a third party—or bringing a work-related PTSD lawsuit against an employer for instance—will help you take the time you need to receive required therapy or treatment, and heal. Receiving due financial compensation will ease the pressure of having to return to work or find employment before you are ready to do so. In the case of work-related PTSD, there are specific criteria you will have to show. These include demonstrating that you have been exposed to a traumatic event, that you are re-experiencing the trauma, and that you are actively avoiding stimuli that remind you of the traumatic event. You will additionally need to prove that you have changes in your personality and emotional responses, as well as recurrent feelings of arousal. Bringing a lawsuit may be the last thing on your mind, but it is important not to let too much time pass, as there are statutes of limitations (ranging from one to three years) for this type of claim.

Gold Standard Approaches to PTSD

It is important to treat PTSD during substance abuse recovery, since the powerful symptoms of PTSD can become ‘triggers’ for substance or alcohol abuse. Tried-and-tested approaches that can help during substance abuse and PTSD recovery include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The latter seeks to demonstrate the powerful link between one’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The therapist can help the patient reframe negative thoughts into more positive ones, or choose specific behaviors to adjust, so the patient can notice the effect this change has on the way they think or feel about a situation.

 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Another treatment that has been found to reduce the symptoms of PTSD is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). In this therapy, the therapist asks the patient to recall the traumatic event while making eye movements. Usually, the patient is asked to follow the therapist’s finger movements with their eyes. The therapist may also use tapping motions or play sounds. This therapy helps change the negative way in which people view the experience of trauma.

 Exercise and Holistic Activities

Natural approaches such as being physically active and embracing holistic activities like yoga and meditation can also be helpful. There are also more novel therapies that are showing promise. For instance, a 2019 study by researchers at the Ruhr-University Bochum has found that a behavioral intervention procedure that included playing the popular computer game, Tetris, could alleviate involuntarily recurring visual memories of traumatic experiences. The researchers stated that because every patient has individual needs and tastes, looking for approaches that lie beyond conventional treatments can be helpful.

 A large percentage of people have both PTSD and substance abuse disorders. It is vital to address both since PTSD can be a trigger for SUD. In addition to seeking legal recourse, therapy is also vital. Successful non-medication-based approaches include CBT, EMDR, exercise, holistic activities, and even therapist-led gaming.


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