My Heroin and PTSD Connections

lonely man sitting at the seaside.

Welcome back, and thank you for reading.

This post is going to focus on the relationship between PTSD and the use of painkillers and opioids.

While my heroin and PTSD recovery journey has been going smoothly, I have spent some time reflecting on my past. I believe that by understanding and facing its pitfalls, I can avoid going down that rabbit hole again. In the course of my reflection and quest for understanding, I realized that my leap from PTSD to painkillers and later heroin was a rather common occurrence.

In my previous post, I explained that my mum and brother didn’t notice the symptoms of heroin use because I was still doing the same things I used to do. It turns out that PTSD has more in common with substance abuse than just the same symptoms. A large percentage of those battling with post-traumatic stress disorder often turn to heroin use for help.

In the United States alone, over 2 million people are struggling with opioid use disorder. Specifically, over 66% of those receiving treatments for heroin use are also struggling with PTSD. A little PTSD research reveals that about 7 or 8 of every 100 people will have PTSD at some point in their lives. This makes the high rate of PTSD prevalence among opioid users generally, and heroin users particularly is worrying. To escape the effects of a traumatic experience, most people often erroneously turn to painkillers and even heroin like I did. In chasing that elusive numbness and high, it is so easy to become addicted to these substances, and heroin recovery is a lifelong process.

lonely man in the mountains.

I did get heroin addiction help, and while I realize that I have my work cut out for me as I would always be in heroin addiction recovery, I never forget that I was lucky enough to manage to escape suicide by heroin. Some others are not that lucky as over 15,000 people died in 2018 from heroin suicide. Heroin affects the body by slowing down breathing, and this can lead to death if breathing is stopped or slows down so much that a person slips into consciousness. If there’s nobody around to check on them, they can die as a result.

The heroin addiction recovery rate is also a little bleak. Although addiction is quickly developed,  treatment for heroin is for life, and studies have shown that two-thirds of those who complete treatment for heroin addiction relapse.

For a heroin addict, recovery is a continuous process to avoid backsliding. Although heroin recovery rates a lot to be desired, a recovering heroin addict can still stay sober by identifying and avoiding triggers, the current heroin recovery rate notwithstanding.

Post-traumatic stress disorder statistics show that about two-thirds of people who get help for PTSD experience either total or reduced symptoms.

Also, in a study of the use of painkillers among PTSD and non-PTSD patients, an estimated 68% of patients with PTSD have prescribed an analgesic compared to 51% of patients without PTSD.

The effects of PTSD can be debilitating and cause one to cease all social interactions, but there are also cases of high functioning PTSD, where patients are able to carry out their regular social interactions and activities. I was in the previous spectrum when I turned to painkillers and opioids to get through each day. Most PTSD patients seem to do the same. In retrospect, I should have asked for the help I needed. Like an addiction, recovering from PTSD can be a lifelong process, and if care is not taken, painkillers and opioids can become a crutch to make life bearable. But in the long run, it only compounds an already existing problem. Instead of trying to go it alone, it is better to seek help for PTSD.

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