What Causes PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans?

What Causes PTSD and Substance Abuse in VeteransPost Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among veterans is a very real and scary phenomenon. Some people who have been through a traumatic experience, such as war, cope with the symptoms of anxiety, fear and stress by turning to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

When someone turns to substance abuse when they experience symptoms of their PTSD, it leaves them vulnerable to drug and alcohol dependence. This substance abuse may soon turn into a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), requiring professional treatment. When someone suffers from a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder, it is necessary to receive dual diagnosis treatment. This form of comprehensive treatment will address both illnesses simultaneously and get to the root cause of each one. Treating just one disorder alone will not help, as either one can be triggered at any time.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Abuse Outcomes

When you suffer from PTSD, you probably have other health problems (physical pain is most common), as well as relationship problems or problems in daily functioning. If you use drugs or alcohol in this period, the PTSD symptoms can soon become worse:

  • PTSD may cause insomnia (difficulty with falling asleep or frequent waking up at night). In such scenario, you may decide to take some medications or other substances to help you fall asleep, however, in the long run, you’d feel tired and are more at risk of developing a dependency.
  • PTSD can make you feel completely “numb” and socially distant from others.  You can develop feelings of anger and depression or become paranoid and jumpy. If you consider curing these issues on your own, do note that you can only worsen them.
  •  There’s a phenomenon called “avoidance” often associated with PTSD, meaning that you’ve become prone to avoid memories, people and places that make you feel bad or scared. Using substances in this phase can only prolong the phenomenon, since you will not be able to progress if you keep avoiding the issues.
  •  Using substances at first may create a short-term distraction, however, it can make you less productive, cause disorientation and not allow you to enjoy life.

Treatment for PTSD and Substance Abuse

Learning from past experiences, treatment for PTSD and substance abuse in veterans usually works best when done simultaneously. This dual diagnosis treatment may include:

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

● Cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) – done individually or in group. Some treatment centers offer family counselling as well.

● Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) or Prolonged Exposure (PE) are often performed as PTSD targeted treatments to begin with

● Behavioral therapy for couples

● Controlled medications doses to help you cope with PTSD and substance abuse symptoms at the start of the healing

PTSD and substance abuse treatment should always be performed in a medical facility by trained professionals. Since the issue of every person is different, careful evaluation is done first. Every attempt of home treatment for PTSD and substance abuse may cause you to face more severe symptoms or deepen your substance dependency. Always ask for more options and available treatments for PTSD and substance abuse in veterans at proper treatment centers. If you suffer from PTSD and substance abuse, look for a facility that provides comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment.

Want to take your life back? Contact us today at 855-638-9268, addiction counselors are available 24/7 to help you find lasting recovery

Nelly Botezatu


Nelly Botezatu is a doctoral student in Economics. She enjoys learning new subjects, discovering trends, insights and data relationships. After studying the fundamentals of graphic design, she now presents her data analysis via infographics. She strives to add to the body of online knowledge for our clients.


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