Depressants and PTSD

September 10, 2015

A woman sitting down covering her face

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences an extremely traumatic event. Some people who struggle with this disorder deny that they need help, while others realize that they have a problem but try to manage it on their own. Both of these ways of dealing with PTSD can be dangerous, especially if the person abuses depressants while he is experiencing PTSD-induced depression. There are many dangers related to using depressants while suffering from PTSD, so it’s essential for anyone suffering from this disorder to both avoid depressant drug use and seek out professional help.

What Is PTSD?

A person can develop PTSD after going through any kind of frightening or particularly stressful experience. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that surviving any of the following experiences can lead to the development of this disorder:

  • Abuse
  • Rape
  • Assault
  • Having a loved one in a dangerous or harmful situation
  • Natural disasters
  • Serious accidents
  • Unexpected death of a loved one
  • War

The NIMH also lists several symptoms that are characteristic of PTSD, including:

  • Avoiding events, objects and places related to the initial trauma
  • Bad dreams
  • Difficulty remembering the traumatizing experience
  • Being easily startled
  • Emotional numbness
  • Extreme tension that can lead to angry outbursts
  • Frightening thoughts or flashbacks, which can be accompanied by increased heart rate and sweating
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities

Individuals suffering with PTSD may also experience strong feelings of depression, guilt or worry.

Mixing Depressants and PTSD

Since depression is one of the major symptoms of PTSD, it can be extremely dangerous for a person struggling with this disorder to use depressants. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, depressants, which are also sometimes called sedatives or tranquilizers, are any kind of substance that decreases brain activity. These include:

  • Benzodiazepines – Doctors will sometimes prescribe this type of depressant temporarily to treat anxiety, acute stress, panic attacks and sleep disorders.
  • Non-benzodiazepine sleep medications – These depressants work in similar ways as benzodiazepines, but have fewer negative side effects and a lower risk of the person becoming dependent.
  • Barbiturates – Since these drugs have a very high risk of overdose they are not often prescribed, but are used in surgical procedures and to treat some types of seizures.

Depressants can worsen the symptoms of depression induced by the disorder, which, in turn, can decrease a person’s overall quality of life and increase his risk of engaging in suicidal behavior.

Treatment Options for PTSD

Harold Cohen explains that there are two main types of therapy used to treat PTSD: psychological and medicinal. In psychotherapy, the person will often engage in one or more of the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Along with psychotherapy, some people suffering from PTSD are also prescribed antidepressants. These can sometimes help the person manage the disorder’s symptoms of anxiety, depression, aggression and suicidal thoughts. Cohen also explains that one important factor to remember about antidepressants is that they usually take at least six weeks to work, and thus the person must wait for a period of time before he will experience a noticeable reduction in symptoms.

How to Get More Information About Depressants and PTSD

Using depressants while struggling with PTSD can be dangerous for many reasons. These drugs will not only intensify many of the symptoms of the disorder, but they can also negatively interact with any prescribed antidepressants that the person may be taking. It’s therefore essential that a person with PTSD avoid depressants at all costs. If you or someone you care about is using depressants while suffering from PTSD and need professional help, please give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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