The majority of addicts have experienced previous trauma and, in fact, most suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Establishing and incorporating some sort of trauma treatment is the best path to recovery. Historically, trauma treatment options for these folks has presented a bit of a quandary. Many experts opine that the PTSD treatment should not begin until the addict has achieved long-lasting sobriety. That said, the reality is that most folks with PTSD rarely abstain for very long.
The ray of light in treatment research is that many experts now believe there is no need to wait for sobriety to treat the PTSD. With the use of exposure therapy, or exposing the patient to memories and reminders of the past trauma, therapists are able to reduce the symptoms of PTSD even when the patient continues to use drugs. This treatment has also not been shown to increase their drug use in spite of the re-exposure to the painful memories.
This trauma treatment is good news for the nearly 2/3 of addicts that suffer from PTSD. In the study done, there were two groups of addicts that were broken up into two groups. One group continued with the standard PTSD treatment and the other group worked on abstinence first. Both groups saw similar declines in the drug use, in spite of the PTSD treatments being done concurrently.
While this study showed progress and the ability of trauma treatment to treat both conditions simultaneously, it should be noted that addicts should not be exposed to past painful memories unless done in a professional manner in a safe environment. When trained clinical psychologists carefully deliver exposure therapy in a tightly monitored trial, they were able to help ease the PTSD symptoms in people with addictions. It is safe to say that trauma treatment can work, but needs to be done in a safe place or sober living facility.