The co-occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opioid addiction is a common dual diagnosis combination, especially among military personnel who suffer from serious injuries and are latter prescribed opioids for pain management.
Such are the increased risks of opioids, which include pain-alleviating drugs like morphine, heroin and endorphins, that many eventually start taking higher doses of the drug due to the regular use over a long time. Several studies have also highlighted that the risk of developing PTSD markedly increases among people on opioids compared to others. This is primarily due to the fact that those with PTSD symptoms also increasingly report physical health problems, such as chronic pain.
Besides demographic factors, such as age, gender, etc., the level of opioid abuse plays a crucial role in determining the occurrence of PTSD and opioid addiction. In fact, many researchers have cautioned doctors assessing patients for opioid abuse to also consider the possibility of PTSD.
The current article, as part of the series “Co-occurring conditions with anxiety disorders,” discusses the prevalence of PTSD among the people who abuse opioids.
Demographic factors determining the risk of PTSD
According to a study, published in May 2014 in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, those who abuse prescription opioids stand a 42 percent higher chance of developing a severe form of PTSD. In fact, the risk magnified in those who combined opioid with cocaine or sedative medications. Besides addictive substances, gender and age play a crucial role in determining the risk of PTSD.
Compared to men, women abusing opioids have around 200 percent of increased risk of developing PTSD. Moreover, more than the older adults, people in the age group 18 to 34 who abuse prescription opioids have significantly higher chances of developing PTSD. The study shows a clear link between opioid abuse and PTSD, especially among younger adults and women.
A study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), investigated the risky outcomes of prescription opioid abuse among the U.S. veterans having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly with regard to PTSD. The study associated the risk of developing PTSD with the increased use of opioids for pain, high-risk opioid use and adverse clinical outcomes.
Due to the advancement in the protective gears for battles, a large number of soldiers are returning home from wars, but with both mental and physical problems. With the increased incidence of pain among such soldiers due to mental health problems, the rate of prescription opioids has strikingly risen. This increases the risk of misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers among the veterans. While opioid abuse can cause PTSD, it can also reversely increase the risk of opioid abuse. Therefore, there is a sure shot link between these comorbid disorders.
Unpredictable link between morphine and PTSD
A study, conducted by the child psychiatrist Glenn Saxe, came up with an unexpected prediction that children who got higher doses of morphine while in the burn unit showed less severe PTSD symptoms six months later. Many other studies have found a similar link between morphine and reduction in PTSD.
In 2010, researchers reported that the U.S. soldiers who took morphine to overcome pain due to the injuries incurred in the combat in Iraq were less likely to have PTSD later compared to those who did not take the drug. In fact, some rodent studies have also showed that opioids reduce the brain’s response to fear and stress. Though there is currently no concrete evidence at hand, morphine surely seems promising in the field of PTSD treatment.
Holistic treatment for dual diagnosis
While there is a probable link between PTSD and opioid addiction, having a dual diagnosis can be grueling for any person. It is really important to ensure a holistic treatment for both the co-occurring disorders.
If your loved one is suffering from PTSD and opioid abuse disorder, or any other form of dual diagnosis, contact the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline for accessing information pertaining to the dual diagnosis treatment in California. You can chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1736 to know about the dependable dual diagnosis drug treatment centers in California.