During a natural disaster, the choices and behaviors of those who are struggling with addiction can surely seem illogical and irrational to those who have never experienced addiction themselves. What many do not realize is that addiction is quite literally a disease that hijacks the brain. What a non-addicted person considers a priority, such as food, water, and safe shelter, an addicted person may prioritize as well, but only after they have acquired drugs or alcohol.
Scientific research behind this has identified the reasons and that it is because of the way addiction changes the brain and negatively affects the amygdala, which is the survival center of the brain. As a result, an addicted person won’t hesitate to put themselves in certain dangerous situations if it means that they can feed their addiction. Dangerous situations like staying behind during a natural disaster is no exception.
For example, in a natural disaster, an addict is highly likely to stay behind in a mandatorily evacuated area that is at high risk of devastation. This is because the fear of running out of drugs or alcohol is more powerful than the fear of being injured or killed in even the most serious of natural disasters.
Unfortunately, this increases the risk of an individual being seriously hurt because are not likely to evacuate.
Trauma and Natural Disasters
Another important aspect to consider in the topic of natural disasters and addiction is that in and of itself, a natural disaster can be the cause of trauma that leads to substance abuse. Natural disasters such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, or tsunamis can create a significant amount of stress and fear in a person’s life and result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is because of the way that natural disasters can affect a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and psychological health.
The brain is the command center of all physical and emotional responses. The experience of surviving a natural disaster can lead to an imbalance of hormones that influence and drive functions such as eating and sleeping. The shock from trauma can cause the brain to repeatedly trigger the fight or flight response, which is a natural reaction that occurs when a person experiences or even perceives a scary event, attack, or threat.
Often, untreated or undiagnosed PTSD can lead a person to seek out relief through drugs and alcohol. Many people who have been affected in this way by natural disasters do not even realize that they using to seek relief from these past traumatic experiences.
Natural Disasters and Relapse Risks
If someone is already in recovery and is about to experience a natural disaster, they should be careful and stick close by the support system that they have hopefully already built for themselves. The stress and anxiety that comes along with experiencing a natural disaster can potentially heighten the risk of a person returning to substance use. This is especially true if the person has lost a loved one or been displaced because of the natural disaster.
The person’s family and support system should be vigilant with their loved one and pay close attention to any treatment that may be needed if they sustain injuries during the natural disaster. The individual in recovery should be sure to consider and weigh out the potential risks of receiving any opioid medications to treat pain. If the affected person is not careful, a relapse can be triggered, no matter how many years of a sobriety they may have. Of course, this depends on the extent of damage that happens as a result of the natural disaster.
Just because an individual experiences a natural disaster does not mean that they will end in a relapse. It helps tremendously if family and friends surrounding an individual in recovery pay careful attention to the way they are coping and handling the experience of the natural disaster.
Treatment Options for Natural Disaster Victims
If you or someone you love has experienced issues with substance abuse that is related to an involvement in a natural disaster, help is available. Options for therapy include inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, substance abuse counseling, one-on-one therapy sessions, group sessions, support groups, and building a trusted support network of positive people.
Still, with all things considered, substance abuse treatment facilities that specialize in co-occurring disorders, like A Better Today, are going to be the best option for an individual who is experiencing a dual diagnosis PTSD and a Substance Use Disorder.
If you feel that you are using drugs and alcohol to cope with the lingering effects of a traumatic situation, inpatient substance abuse treatment could help save your life and get you back on track.
If there is one lesson to learn from dealing with any traumatic experience, it would be that using drugs and alcohol to cope will only compound, complicate, and add to the problems that you experience in life.
The courage lies within you to get better and choose a path of healing. It’s up to you to reach out and admit that help is needed. A Better Today is proud to offer treatment for co-occurring disorders because we know that it can help you turn your life around.