PTSD And Addiction

We look at veterans as heroes. People who have served our country and made incredible sacrifices for American freedom. But tragically, even heroes can fall prey to addiction. And, believe it or not, people who have seen combat may even be more likely. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) can wreak havoc on someone’s emotional health and wellness, driving them to “self medicate.” For this blog, we wanted to look deeper into this growing trend and offer hope to anyone who is dealing with these issues.


The Facts About Addiction And PTSD

This may come off surprising; but according to The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, more than two out of every 10 veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction issue. Studies have also shown that war veterans tend to be binge drinking alcoholics, often going to the point of blacking out to ease their emotional pain. In regards to the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the VA claims that one out of every 10 returning soldiers has a drug or alcohol problem.


And as we mentioned above, this is not an issue that is going away anytime soon. In fact, many recent stats show an increase in drug and alcohol abuse among military personnel.  A survey conducted earlier this decade revealed a 56 percent increase of soldiers seeking treatment from 2003 to 2009. There is also data that shows 3.8 million painkiller prescriptions were written by military doctors in 2009. And keep in mind, this was BEFORE the opioid epidemic became widespread.


Common Addictions Among Military Personnel

PTSD can be tremendously distressing. Watching death and carnage before your eyes haunts many soldiers for a lifetime. That’s why it’s easy to see a large painkiller dependency among that population; specifically Lortab, Vicodin and OxyContin. Valium, Xanax and Ambien are also high on that list and are regularly prescribed to sufferers of PTSD.


Drinking problems occur frequently among those currently serving. Many soldiers are far away from home and dealing with tense situations. As with most addictions, the alcoholism is used as a form of comfort and a way to ease the pain.


Properly Treating Addiction Patients With PTSD 

People diagnosed with PTSD carry a wide range of symptoms, including aggression, insomnia, low self-esteem and depression. It is also believed that PTSD sufferers often engage in self-destructive behavior, which is where the addiction comes into play.


We have seen our share of PTSD veterans at Valley Recovery Center and we have trained facilitators to address the delicacies of their situation. Our treatments have shown one-on-one counseling to be an important recovery tool. It gives the person suffering a private and safe forum to express their deepest emotions. Though it may be difficult, our medical professionals work to help these patients explore their past traumas and how they tie into their current state of using.


Cognitive processing is another effective treatment method. This works to change the way a patient feels about their dependency and their upsetting emotions. It is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches specific skills to combat negative thoughts. There are also writing assignments and “homework” exercises to channel a patient’s focus into new areas.


As we mentioned above, we proudly salute any hero who has served this country. And we can’t tell you how rewarding it is for us to see a PTSD patient successfully conquer their addictions. If you or someone you love has served and is suffering, please let us help.




Domestic Violence And Addiction

We understand that there are certain addiction-related topics that are very difficult to talk about. And, unfortunately, domestic violence happens to be one of them. It’s sad to say, but more often than not abusive spouses have some sort of dependency on drugs or alcohol. There are certainly psychological reasons for this, which we’ll explore in this blog. There are also statistics. Scary ones. Like the fact that 61 percent of domestic offenders have addiction problems. Even worse; those who are using when the abuse is taking place, tend to be more violent and cause more damage. The good news is, a strong recovery program can help.


1) Defining the Domestic Violence

First off, it’s important to understand that domestic violence extends far beyond a punch or a kick. If a person in your home is using intimidation, forcing sex upon someone, destroying household items or hurting pets, THIS ALL CLASSIFIES AS ABUSE.  It can be a spouse, it can be a sibling, it can even be a parent…Whoever is on the receiving end of the pain deserves justice. And if drugs or alcohol are contributing, the first thing that needs to be done is getting the abuser outside and into treatment.


When it comes to addiction and recovery, Safety is always our number one concern. We want to make sure the person using isn’t hurting others or themselves. If a situation like what we described above is happening, it is important to immediately seek out help. Our recovery line (866-986-2486) is available 24 hours a day for consultations and interventions. But more importantly, never forget the power of 911. If the addicted family member needs to spend some time in jail, so be it. Remove them, create a safe space for yourself, then sort out the treatment issues.


We will tell you this. Without a proper recovery and treatment plan, the cycle almost always continues.


2) How Addiction Comes Into Play

You may be surprised to read this, but often times in abusive relationships both parties struggle with addiction. In fact, a recent Memphis study revealed that 42 percent of victims involved in the state’s domestic violence cases were using the day that the incident occurred. Sadly, if the victim is addicted as well, they may be more timid to reach out for help. There is a fear there that they could also go to jail, if the police figure out that they abuse illicit substances. This is a common and tragic mistake because it prevents both people from receiving the help they need.


From a psychological standpoint, “Control” figures heavily into the equation. Studies have shown that abusers attack people close to them because they want to feel a sense of control in their lives. As we all know, drugs and alcohol often create a loss of control, which can trigger frustration and the need for domination. There are also judgment lapses, blackouts and behavior that is a 180-degree difference from the person’s normal functioning.


At Valley Recovery Center, we have specialized therapies to explore these deep-rooted feelings. We also have people who have been in the same situation and managed to pull themselves free. Domestic violence is a VERY SERIOUS consequence of addiction and one that NO ONE SHOULD TAKE LIGHTLY. As we mentioned before, if you or a loved one is dealing with this, reach out to your local law enforcement agency or call us at (866-986-2486). We have seen this many times before and know all of the proper methods to get clean.



Addiction Trauma And ‘Seeking Safety’

At Valley Recovery Center, we have a wide variety of services, therapies and methods to help get people on the path to recovery. Some are typical withdrawal programs (such as detox) and others a bit more unconventional (like Wolf Therapy or Archery). For us, the sum is greater than the parts and having a diverse mix of treatments has proven to be very effective. One of our more interesting counseling models is called Seeking Safety. Seeking Safety is an important part of our regimen and can really help patients dealing with trauma or difficult addictions. For this blog feature, we thought we’d share a little about the practices behind Seeking Safety and why we feel it’s so important.


What Is Seeking Safety?

In clinical terms, Seeking Safety is an evidence-based model of recovery treatment that can be used for group or individual counseling. It was developed in 2002 under a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. At its core, Seeking Safety is a coping therapy specifically designed for people with painful pasts. Combative households, PTSD, sexual abuse…these are all prime examples of traumatic events and can be very influential in the formation of an addiction. To help get a patient to let go of their substance habit, we sometimes have to explore the early issues that led them there. Seeking Safety helps to do just that, by working as a concurrent treatment that explores the addiction habit and the traumas that may have been the catalyst. Counselors trained in this method work to create “safe” zones, helping patients envision what safety would look like in their lives and how to cope with it.


Seeking Safety also focuses on the present, teaching specific coping strategies that may never have been learned during a dysfunctional childhood. Trauma and addiction are treated simultaneously and unique topics are set up to build trust and engagement with the patient.


Defining The Topics

One of the ways Seeking Safety works is by setting 25 defined topics, rotated into a weekly therapy regimen. It is important to understand each one and how they play into the recovery method. Topic 1, for example, is called Taking Back Your Power. Here, compassion is brought into the therapy, helping patients to accept their past, let go of anger and take control of their lives. Grounding is another key method, which teaches patients to detach from emotional pain. The intent, is to shift attention toward the external world and away from negative feelings. When Substances Control You is a cognitive topic, which uses unique exercises to help let go of addiction. “Climbing Mount Recovery” is one very effective component of Substances, which uses visualization as a tool.


Topic exercises like Red and Green Flags help identify “dangerous” scenarios in everyday life, while Self Nurturing allows patients to imagine rewarding “gifts” and the concept of pleasurable sobriety. There is also The Life Choices Game, Coping With Triggers and Setting Boundaries in Relationships, just to name a few. As patients move along in their recovery, they ultimately surpass the Topics and, with time, learn to let go of their trauma.


To us, Seeking Safety is a fascinating, comprehensive method for recovery. There are no limitations to how a counselor can build the topic list and patients, often times, help structure the itinerary themselves.


To dig deeper into Seeking Safety, we highly recommend reading Dr. Lisa M. Najavits’ book on the subject. Or reach out to Valley Recovery Center at (800) 986-2486 to learn about our classes and counselors.



The Terrible Trend Of Getting Pets High

Every now and then, we come across stories that truly devastate us. As recovery advocates and animal lovers, it is terrible to hear about innocent pets getting subjected to drugs and alcohol. But it is a reality and a subject that deserves attention.


One particular story started out tragic, but ultimately led to a happy ending. In Orange County, a seven-month-old puppy named Bubba was discovered high on heroin and methamphetamine at a local motel room. The Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix was in terrible shape when found by police…cold to the touch, listless and lethargic.


Thankfully his owner was found with him and promptly arrested for drug possession and animal cruelty. But that didn’t help Bubba, who had to go through seven months of treatment to recover from the incident.


Well the good news is, after his miraculous full recovery Bubba has found a new home. An anonymous couple from nearby Orange has adopted the dog, offering him a safe environment and new German Shepard companion.


The real tragedy is that these stories are not isolated incidents. Often times, drug and alcohol abusers find it amusing to “share” their narcotics with their pets. Let us be clear when we say THAT THIS IS NEVER OKAY. It can easily lead to permanent damage to the animal or even death. If someone you know is abusing a pet in this way, we urge you to reach out to authorities.

Binge Drinking Blog Goes Viral

Sometimes it takes a first-person account of addiction to scare people straight. And this month 21-year-old college student Hanna Lottritz did just that, with a brutally honest blog that reached 400,000 readers and profiled her descent into binge drinking.


Outlets like The Today Show and US Magazine covered Hanna’s story, publishing her “selfie” from an ER hospital room. In it, you can see her unconscious and hooked up to ventilators and heart monitors.


According to her blog post after the fact, Lottritz went above and beyond with her campus partying. Just prior to her 21st birthday, Hanna consumed shot after shot of “Black Velvet Whiskey.” From there things got progressively worse, with a complete blackout and a call to the paramedics.


“I was in critical condition, suffering from acute respiratory failure and acute alcohol intoxication,” Hanna wrote. “My blood alcohol concentration was .41 when I arrived at the hospital, five times over the legal limit. The doctors thought I was brain dead because I was completely unresponsive.”


Indeed, Hanna’s binge drinking put her into a 24-hour-coma, with doctors fearing she may be brain dead. Thankfully, she made a full recovery and decided to share her story with the world.


“I’ve learned to respect alcohol — that it is serious,” she added. “You can’t just drink and drink and drink. It’s not a game. You can’t play games with it.”

LAFD Creates New SOBER Unit

Some interesting statistics were released from the Los Angeles Fire Department last month. Apparently, people with chronic drug and alcohol problems accounted  for more than 2,000 911 calls last year. That is far higher than any other category and  led to several issues from first responders. For one thing, paramedic crews weren’t always equipped to address the needs of the addicted patients. So to combat this (and make experiences  more efficient) a new 911 SOBER Unit is being put in place.


The purpose of the SOBER Unit will be to send social workers and addiction specialists to alcohol and drug-related 911 calls. People who the LAFD claim are better trained to handle these types of situations. As LAFD medical director Dr. Marc Eckstein told KABC,


“Instead of taking them to county hospital, sometimes twice in one day, community outreach workers work with the individual to get them to voluntarily go to the sobering center. And the plan is to try to get them into detox and traditional housing.”


In reality, the new LAFD SOBER Unit will serve two purposes. For one thing, it will help to address the specific needs of addicted 911 callers. More important for the city however, SOBER Units will bring costs way down for taxpayers; with a 12-month budget of about $165,000.


The plan certainly sounds interesting to us. And if all goes according to plan, SOBER Units will be formally in place by mid-September.