Mervin Smucker (2015). Substance Abuse as a contributor to posttraumatic stress treatment failures.

A high percentage of traumatized individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress regularly engage in substance use and/or abuse (e.g. alcohol, drugs) in an attempt to numb themselves to their painful trauma-related thoughts/feelings and thereby to avoid the re-experiencing of trauma-related material (e.g. flashbacks, intrusions).  These avoidance behaviors frequently pose a serious obstacle to, and interfere with, trauma treatment and serve to further reinforce their traumagenic beliefs that they are unable to cope. With these substance abuse clients a “stabilization phase” is generally an essential first-step of treatment, the primary purpose of which is for clients to learn to more adaptively manage/regulate their trauma-related emotions and dysfunctional coping strategies. If trauma-processing treatment interventions are attempted before a client has stabilized vis-à-vis his/her use of drugs or alcohol as a “coping” strategy, the trauma treatment will likely fail.

Mervin Smucker