Substance Abuse in Veterans with PTSD

PTSD and SUD Substance Use Disorder

PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse

PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) is a common occurrence in many soldiers who have made it back from war. Many struggle with lost friends and imagery instilled in their mind from their active duty experience. Substance abuse in veterans with PTSD is not too much different than those who struggle with substance abuse or addiction from a young age. The only difference is these are young men and woman who served our country in one of the honorable branches of the military.

The truth is that no one wants to have flashbacks filled with imagery of friends who’ve died or people they’ve killed. No one wants to have the empathetic moment of remembering the fear they had when bombs were going off all around them.

For the person who couldn’t even imagine what these courageous men and woman serving our country could be going through after these experiences. Think about how you were jaded by life after losing a friend or family member, who meant a lot to you.  Or think about being abused as a child, either physically, mentally, or verbally.

The point were getting to here is that it’s not about the actions that have occurred in the past, it’s about our reactions to those things mentally, emotionally and physically. No one likes to feel mental anguish or emotional turmoil. Many people who suffer from PTSD haven’t properly worked through the emotions of some of these experiences and have no clue how to.

Many turn to drugs and alcohol as a quick solution not to feel these emotions creating pressure within them, which in many cases explodes into addiction and alcoholism. Substance abuse is quite common among people who suffer from PTSD unless their actively being treated for it.

PTSD Posttraumatic stress disorder and substance use disorder

According to the Veterans Association:

Some people try to cope with their Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms by drinking heavily, using drugs, or smoking too much. People with PTSD have more problems with drugs and alcohol both before and after getting PTSD. Also, even if someone does not have a problem with alcohol before a traumatic event, getting PTSD increases the risk that he or she will develop a drinking or drug problem.

Eventually, the overuse of these substances can develop into Substance Use Disorder (SUD), and treatment should be given for both PTSD and SUD to lead to successful recovery. The good news is that treatment of co-occurring (happening at the same time) PTSD and SUD works.

Specific to Veterans:

  • More than 2 of 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD.
  • War Veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to be binge drinkers. Binges may be in response to bad memories of combat trauma.
  • Almost 1 out of every 3 Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also has PTSD.
  • The number of Veterans who smoke (nicotine) is almost double for those with PTSD (about 6 of 10) versus those without a PTSD diagnosis (3 of 10).
  • In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning soldiers seen in VA have a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

Evidence has shown that in general people have improved their PTSD and substance use disorder symptoms when they are provided treatment that addresses both conditions. This can involve any of the following (alone or together):

EMDR is also a great way to treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

What is EMDR? How can it help PTSD and Substance Abuse as a Co-occurring Disorders

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.

The Veterans Association provides quite a bit for veterans returning from active duty. Many veterans state however, that the VA hospitals are overwhelmed and crowded. There is not much emphasis put on recovery from addiction or alcoholism. Many lose hope and they turn to suicide. This does not have to be the case. Luckily the health system for low has been made affordable and a veteran seeking treatment can qualify for insurance at a low monthly rate. SEE OPTIONS HERE

Addiction diagram

The fact is that anyone can have PTSD Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Abuse Disorder. The other fact is, it’s treatable. You can receive treatment for these disorders from many places, but be sure to do your research on the best ones and it’s always good to become fully knowledgeable of your condition first so you can work with someone who can treat it.

Save A Life and Find Good Treatment

Our Admissions Office is Open 24/7 Call Us Today!



I am a freelance writer, web developer, search engine optimization specialist, PPC specialist, social media strategist, and more. The drug and alcohol treatment industry pulls on my heart strings and I will only work with the best, That's why I work with Bright Futures Treatment Center

One thought on “Substance Abuse in Veterans with PTSD

Comments are closed.