PTSD and Opioid Drug Prescriptions

PTSD and Opioid Drug PrescriptionsAccording to the Mayo Clinic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. PTSD is most often associated with the way individuals respond to war, terrorism, violence, abuse and disasters. If a person’s response involves intense fear, helplessness or horror, the individual would be considered a person affected by PTSD.


Opioids are a category of drugs most often prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. Common prescribed opioids include the following:

  • Codeine
  • Tramadol
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Morphine
  • Diamorphine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Methadone

Since physical pain is not often associated with PTSD, there is question as to why so many people who have this mental health disorder are prescribed an opioid.

PTSD and Opioid Drug Prescriptions

A study sponsored by the Veteran’s Administration in 2012 analyzed returning veterans with PTSD. According to Dr. Karen Seal, one of the authors of the VA study and a physician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, receiving prescription opioids was associated with adverse clinical outcomes for all veterans, but adverse effects were most pronounced in veterans with PTSD. Those outcomes included general wounds and injuries, accidents and overdoses, violent injuries and suicide attempts.

A similar conclusion was reached in a June 2011 Institute of Medicine report, which noted that prescribing opioids for a complex mental health issue resulted in poor mental health and increased substance abuse.

Treatment for PTSD and Opioid Drug Addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), effective treatments are available to treat PTSD and addiction, including talk therapies such as the following:

  • Exposure therapy – In PTSD treatment, exposure therapy is intended to help the patient face and gain control of the fear and distress that was overwhelming in the trauma. Exposure therapy can be gradual, or if the person and therapist agree, it can be more aggressive, allowing the person to confront memories all at once. While being exposed to these traumas, the person is taught relaxation techniques that allow him or her to become less fearful.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) – In this therapy, a qualified therapist guides the client in vividly but safely recalling distressing past experiences (“desensitization”) and gaining new understanding (“reprocessing”) of the events, the bodily and emotional feelings and the thoughts and self-images associated with them. The “eye movement” aspect of EMDR involves the client moving his or her eyes in a back-and-forth manner while recalling the events.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This therapy helps patients identify and challenge their erroneous beliefs and interpretations. The therapy is intended to help people understand that it is not actual events that cause negative emotional reactions but the interpretation of those events. People are taught to look at their negative beliefs and evaluate the pros and cons of maintaining them. They carefully consider the likelihood of their fears and the cost of those outcomes and look for possible alternative explanations and ways of thinking.

If you are suffering from PTSD, you may want to explore these therapies further to identify the option that is right for you.

Learn More about PTSD and Addiction Help

You don’t have to handle this alone; we are here to help. If you feel that you could benefit from addiction therapy but need more information to make your decision, call our toll-free number today. We are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have about rehab options.