Dr Richard Nahas Explains the Difference Between PTSD And Addiction


According to Dr Richard Nahas, people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at a higher risk of developing a drug addiction. When PTSD and drug addiction co-occur, it can lead to serious trauma and life risk. That’s why it is crucial to understand the signs of PTSD and drug addiction among friends and family members and take the necessary steps to help in their treatment.

The Differences

Let’s see the difference between PTSD and drug addiction:

1. Definition – PTSD is a mental health disorder which can occur when a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, sexual or physical assault, acts of terrorism, death of a loved one, and more.

Drug addiction or substance use disorder affects the brain and behaviour of a person which leads them to abuse legal or illegal drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, opioids, and more.

2. The symptoms – The symptoms of PTSD can manifest in four primary ways: intrusive memories, negative changes in thinking and mood, avoidance, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. The intensity of the symptoms can vary over time and lead to recurrent nightmares, apathy, self-destructive behaviour, and more.

The common symptoms of drug addiction include having intense urges to consume a drug, even at the cost of failing to meet obligations, physical health issues, money issues, behavioural changes, problems at work and school, and more.

3. Diagnosis – PTSD is diagnosed by performing a psychological evaluation, and physical exam, and using the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Drug addiction is diagnosed by a thorough evaluation and assessment by a psychologist, psychiatrist, drug counsellor and lab tests such as blood and urine tests.

4. Treatment options – The treatment options for PTSD include certain types of psychotherapy such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive therapy, and exposure therapy, and medications such as anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, prazosin, and more.

The patient and their family members are encouraged to learn more about PTSD since the knowledge can clear their confusion about what they are experiencing. Additionally, the patient needs to be taught the skills necessary to address their symptoms and how to cope with depression, anxiety, and more.

The treatment options for drug addiction will depend on the drug used and related mental and health disorders that the patient might have. It typically involves withdrawal therapy or detox therapy, medicine such as naloxone, buprenorphine, and more, and behaviour therapy.

Additionally, the patient is encouraged to attend self-help support groups which help them to deal with the danger of relapse.


Dr Richard Nahas suggests you don’t avoid or hate loved ones that develop PTSD or drug addiction due to unforeseen circumstances. It is also not a wise decision to take such serious mental issues lightly or hide them from everybody else. The best course of action is to get them to help with the help of medical experts to ensure they can recover well and lead a normal life.

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