ptsd and alcohol

5 Surprising Things About PTSD and Alcohol Addiction

Those who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder are a lot more susceptible to addiction. In fact, more 2 out of 10 veterans with PTSD have substance use disorders, according to the U.S. Veterans Affairs.

That may not seem extreme at first glance, but that is more than double the amount for citizens without PTSD.

With their long-held relationship, here is what you need to know about PTSD and alcohol addiction.

What Is PTSD?

Psychologists are continuing to research and learn more about PTSD and the effects that it can have on our behavior and cognition.

It was formerly known as “shell shock” because of the high rate of veterans coming back from war with the disorder. However, while it is commonly associated with war, veterans are not the only people diagnosed with the disorder.

There have been many developments in the understanding of PTSD, its causes, and its symptoms.

PTSD is a lasting disorder in the aftermath of a traumatic event. It can present itself in many ways, including symptoms like: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Insomnia

Unfortunately, the list goes on. It can last a lifetime, as it is not curable, but the effects can be managed with proper treatment.

People suffering from PTSD often get flashbacks to the traumatic event, reliving it repeatedly. This can exacerbate the other symptoms, making them last longer.

All of these symptoms and more can lead a person to self-medicate, most commonly in the form of alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Addiction

Less than 1 out of 10 Americans suffer from alcohol addiction, yet alcohol use is still the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., with only 11 percent of people with alcoholism receiving treatment.

People are more susceptible to alcohol addiction under high levels of stress, for many reasons. Some use it to help with insomnia or as a mean for escaping unwanted thoughts.

Whatever the reason for the abuse, alcohol addiction can lead to horrifying effects, including:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression
  • Alcohol poisoning

With more risks and so few addicts receiving treatment, it is important to stay informed about the risks and take preventative measures.

Any mental health disorder can lead to substance abuse disorders, so treatment for mental health should be a top priority before any other issues are caused.

People suffering from alcohol addiction who attempt to treat it themselves risk lethal withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to withdraw from, and require specialized medical treatment.

5 Surprising Things About PTSD and Alcohol

While it is clear that there is a link between PTSD and alcohol use, there are some facts about the two that you may not know. Here are the facts about the two.

1. PTSD Is Common

PTSD can develop from any type of trauma that you can experience, and those traumatic events are more common than you may think.

In fact, an estimated 70% of American adults have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. The most common being:

  • Violent assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Natural disasters
  • Military combat
  • Childhood abuse

Not everybody is affected by PTSD after a traumatic event, but an astonishing amount of people are at risk.

An estimated 5% of Americans, or over 13 million, are affected by PTSD at any given time, with 8% likely to develop it in their lifetime.

2. Certain People Are More Susceptible

Certain demographics are more likely to develop PTSD or alcohol addictions than others. 

Women are more susceptible to PTSD than men, going against the misconception that only men in the military develop PTSD. Sexual trauma is believed to be the more likely cause of PTSD than any other trauma.

That is especially troubling considering that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in their lives, compared to 1 in 71 men.

Not only that, but alcohol use is also on the rise in the U.S. for both women and minorities

Teens using alcohol is also on the rise, with 7.7 million people between age 12 and 20 reporting to use alcohol at least once in their life.

More research is needed to understand why these demographics are using alcohol at higher rates.

However, this is especially troubling because alcohol kills more teenagers and young adults than all other controlled substances combined. Alcohol also accounts for 30% of driving fatalities for this age range.

3. You Do Not Have To Pick One or the Other

People suffering from PTSD and alcohol addiction do not have to choose to treat one problem at a time. Treatment centers offer programs to treat both. 

Dual diagnoses treatments exist and are available to people suffering from substance use disorder as well as a mental health disorder like PTSD.

Evidence-based therapies are incorporated into these treatment programs in order to treat both disorders over the same period of time. This can be the most effective way to get your life back on track.

4. People With PTSD Are Less Likely To Get Treatment

PTSD that is left untreated is an unfortunate situation that commonly leads to substance abuse.

People with PTSD are less likely to get treatment for substance abuse because they are less likely to understand it as an addiction.

Unfortunately, when you see alcohol or other substances as the solution to the problem, you are less likely to see it as a problem itself.

5. Symptoms of PTSD Can Take Years To Develop

After a traumatic event, the symptoms of PTSD may not appear until much later, making the diagnosis trickier.

Some people do not experience any symptoms until years later. This often causes them to think something else is wrong.

Next Steps

It is clear that PTSD and addiction are very serious disorders that need to be treated professionally.

For people struggling with PTSD and alcohol abuse, it is critical to get treatment as soon as possible.

The longer the problems continue, the more damage they can cause. If you or a loved one could benefit from residential treatment, don’t wait. Find the right treatment plan today.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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