People have always used drugs to deal with traumatic stress, whether alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, opioids or tranquilisers. When we are desperate, we’ll do anything to feel calmer and more in control. Mainstream psychiatry follows this tradition, routinely prescribing antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antianxiety drugs.
Drugs cannot “cure” trauma; they can only dampen the symptoms of a disturbed physiology and they do not help the body to learn self-regulation. They can help to control feelings and behaviour, but always at a price, because they work by blocking the chemical systems that regulate engagement, motivation, pain, and pleasure. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can make life feel more manageable. People on SSRIs often feel calmer and more in control. Feeling less overwhelmed makes it easier to engage in therapy. Other people feel blunted by SSRIs. It’s worth working with your GP or Psychiatrist to see what works (and only you can be the judge of that) and if one SSRI doesn’t work, it’s worth trying another, because they all have slightly different effects. Medicines that target the ANS can help to decrease hyperarousal and reactivity to stress. These work by blocking the physical effects of adrenaline and can reduce nightmares, insomnia, and reactivity to trauma triggers. Blocking adrenaline can help to keep the rational brain online so that logical decision making is possible.
Some clients like tranquilising drugs which work a bit like alcohol, in that they make people feel calm and keep them from worrying. But also, like alcohol, they weaken inhibitions against saying hurtful things to loved ones, have a high addiction potential and may also interfere with trauma processing. People who stop taking them after prolonged use usually have withdrawal reactions that make them agitated and increase post-traumatic symptoms. Anticonvulsants and mood stabilisers can have mildly positive effects, taking the edge off hyperarousal and panic. Antipsychotic medications can significantly dampen the emotional brain and thus make people less afraid or enraged, but they may interfere with being able to appreciate pleasure, danger, or satisfaction, can cause weight gain, increase the chance of developing diabetes, and make people physically inert (which is likely to further increase their sense of isolation).
I offer a free initial telephone conversation, giving you as much time and space as you need to consider whether you’d like to come and meet me.