Hallucinogen Abuse and PTSD

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

sad-659422_640Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that can be triggered after the experience of a traumatic ordeal.

PTSD can occur at any age and across any demographic, developing in a reaction to severe mental/emotional distress or physical injury. Some of the types of situations that can trigger PTSD include abuse (sexual, physical, emotional), military combat, natural disaster, violent assault, or other life-threatening events.

How PTSD Is Developed

PTSD can also be triggered by the observation of a loved one who may have experienced something traumatic. The experiences that can trigger PTSD are largely dependent on the individual. People who are biologically susceptible to developing anxiety disorders or mental illnesses may be more likely to have PTSD after a traumatic event than someone who is not predisposed.

However a person might develop PTSD, the experience of living with this anxiety disorder can be treacherous. An individual who has PTSD may experience stress, anxiety, and fear, even when not actively in danger. Other symptoms that an individual with PTSD might experience include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Experiencing frightening thoughts
  • Detachment and isolation
  • Loss of interest in activities once previously enjoyed
  • Insomnia
  • Disruption in eating/sleeping patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating

Suffering with PTSD can make living life and completing normal and daily tasks a challenging feat.

Turning to Drugs to Escape PTSD

Some individuals who suffer with PTSD may look to drugs as a means of escaping the harsh reality that they may be experiencing on a daily basis. Despite the consequences that result from drug abuse, people with PTSD may feel that the temporary escape they experience from getting high off of drugs is worth the risks they might ensue.

Other people suffering with PTSD may feel like drugs are the only way in which they can cope with the overwhelming emotions that are often experienced with this mental illness.

Common Drug Choices of PTSD Sufferers

young man at balcony in depression suffering emotional crisisDrugs that may be accessed by PTSD sufferers include those that are classified as hallucinogens. This category of drugs include substances that essentially induce hallucinations, including LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), Mescaline (peyote cactus), and Magic Mushrooms. Hallucinogens can cause a person to hear, smell, see, feel or taste objects or things that are not present or do not actually exist. Other effects of hallucinogens include the following:

  • Confusion, Disorientation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred Vision
  • Intense mood swings
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Sweating and Chills
  • Gastrointestinal distress, including vomiting and nausea
  • Numbness

The effects of hallucinogens can last up to 12 hours, depending on the type of drug used and the dosage ingested.

How Drugs Can Make PTSD Worse

While a person suffering with PTSD might feel that hallucinogens are the only means of escaping under a burdensome mental illness, the use of these drugs can actual exacerbate the PTSD. With repeated use of hallucinogens, the chances of withdrawal symptoms occurring are increased. An individual withdrawing from hallucinogens may experience psychological symptoms in addiction to physical symptoms, which can trigger an episode of PTSD.

The important thing to realize is that no substance or drug can treat the underlying issues that influenced the development of PTSD. While it may offer a false sense of relief, use of hallucinogens cannot help a person heal from their past or find ways to appropriately deal with PTSD.

Getting Help for PTSD

Young man scratching his headIf you have been suffering with PTSD and have frequently looked towards drugs, such as hallucinogens, to cope with the stress and anxiety you are experiencing, it is important to seek about the appropriate care you need. You may be struggling with co-occurring disorders, or a mental disorder in combination with substance abuse.

There are specific treatment approaches and methods that can help you overcome an addiction to hallucinogens and well as learn how to appropriately manage PTSD. You can begin your recovery journey by admitting your struggle and asking for the help you need today.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you suffered with PTSD and hallucinogen abuse? If so, what treatment approaches did you find helpful in guiding you towards healing from PTSD and in recovery from hallucinogen abuse? What positive coping mechanisms have you developed to help you effectively deal with PTSD?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 8th, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com