Effectiveness of Using EMDR to Treat PTSD in Drug Addiction

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When a person experiences a traumatic event, they often internalize the event and re-experience it. In effect, they are not only traumatized during the “activating” event, but every time something triggers a memory of the event. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional, psychological distress, or harm. It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.

The most well-known cases of post-traumatic stress disorder are seen in war veterans. Vietnam War vets who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder showed significant impairment in their ability to reintegrate into the normal (that is, non-combat) world. A number of these vets did not seek treatment, and even more disheartening is the fact that many of them probably could have been treated if effective programs had been available. Now with Iraq War veterans also showing significant signs of post-traumatic stress, we are poised to either end up with another generation of battle-rattled young men or to face the problem with the resources these war vets deserve.

Common Causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder is not only caused by war. Any significant traumatic event or a series of traumas over time can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Some common causes are:

  • Child or domestic abuse
  • Living in a war zone or extremely dangerous neighborhood
  • Sexual Assault
  • Violent Attack
  • The sudden death of a loved one
  • Witnessing a violent death such as a homicide

One of the most effective treatments was discovered incidentally by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., in 1987. When Dr. Francine Shapiro was hiking and became anxious and overwhelmed, she noticed that as she scanned the environment with her eyes, moving them back and forth, and she began to relax. This led her to assume that eye movements had a desensitizing effect, and when she experimented with it clinically, she found that other people had the same response. It became apparent that eye movements alone weren’t comprehensive, so she added other treatment elements and developed the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is commonly known as EMDR therapy.

Untreated trauma can be a significant source of psychic pain and emotional turmoil, which leads many of those suffering to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. If those people seek treatment for drug addiction, they are at high risk for relapse if they do not find a way to re-process and cope with the trauma. In this regard, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy have been gaining their roots as an effective treatment over the years.

In a drug rehab center, they can generally treat all types of addictions, from marijuana to heroin, but often the patients at a particular center rehab might feel more comfortable if they are among people with similar addictions. For example, an executive with alcoholism might not relate to a homeless person with meth addiction. However, it is necessary that one learns to accept others and be an active participant when going through EMDR therapy at a rehab center for addiction treatment.

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