When a drug- and alcohol-dependent client with a co-occurring diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes to MARR for addiction treatment, we are very conscious of the fact that much of his or her drug and/or alcohol use may have been for the purpose of anxiety relief and symptom reduction. While drugs and alcohol may have helped the person cope with PTSD symptoms, in the beginning, substance abuse eventually leads to its own problems and unmanageability. This compounds the already-intricate set of issues with which the person is struggling.

First, MARR works to ensure the client is clean and sober. He or she will be unable to work on the addiction or PTSD if mood-altering substances continue to impact his or her brain chemistry. Just like PTSD, drug and alcohol use affects every part of the person’s life — physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. In order to achieve lasting recovery, there must be a balance between treating for substance abuse/dependence and teaching the person effective techniques for calming and self-regulating emotions.

At MARR, we know that as we work on removing the effects of drugs and alcohol, we will begin to see the anxiety and symptoms of PTSD surface in the client’s attitudes and behaviors. Our gender-specific, residential addiction treatment programs combine the benefits of intensive day therapy with the Therapeutic Community model, which allows the client to work on his or her issues in a supportive therapeutic environment. As the client begins practicing new behaviors in the context of a community, peers, and staff members are there to help him or her through this difficult time.

Recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction is possible for individuals with a dual diagnosis of PTSD. It just takes a little more time, patience, and effort.

Jim Seckman, MAC, CACII, CCS is the clinical director at MARR. Jim has over 20 years of experience working in the field of addiction treatment in a variety of clinical settings, including inpatient, outpatient, and residential. Jim is past president of GARR (Georgia Association of Recovery Residences), has served on the Ethics Committee for GACA (Georgia Addiction Counselors Association), and conducts regular training workshops on addiction treatment. For more information on addiction and PTSD, email him at Jim.Seckman@marrinc.org