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Substance Use Problems in PTSD

The Connection between PTSD and Alcohol Use, Drug Use, and Smoking


Updated May 26, 2010

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It is common for people with PTSD to develop substance use problems, including alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and smoking. This is not incredibly surprising given the high level of distress that coincides with the experience of PTSD symptoms. As a result, people with PTSD may seek out ways to "self-medicate" their symptoms. Substances may work very well in reducing distress in the short-term. However, in the long-term, symptoms may intensify and other problems (for example, problems with health, relationships, or at work) may develop. Learn more about the connection between PTSD and substance use in the articles below.

PTSD and Alcohol and Drug Abuse

A number of studies have been conducted that have looked at rates of alcohol and drug abuse among people with PTSD. These studies have found that individuals with PTSD are at greater risk for developing substance use problems than people without PTSD. This article reviews the rates of alcohol and drug abuse among people with PTSD, and also presents information on the reasons why people with PTSD may be at greater risk for substance use problems.

Understanding Self-Medication in PTSD

People with PTSD experience intense and frequent distressing symptoms, including intrusive memories and thoughts, hyperarousal, and hypervigilance. It has been proposed that people with PTSD may be more likely to use substances because they are seeking a way to self-medicate distress associated with these PTSD symptoms. Learn more about self-medication in PTSD, as well as ways of overcoming addiction.

Smoking in PTSD

Approximately 45 million adults in the United States currently smoke, and it has been found that individuals with PTSD may be more likely to smoke than people without PTSD. In this article, you can learn about the rates of smoking in PTSD, as well as why individuals with PTSD may be more likely to smoke. Finally, you can learn about some treatments that are available for people with PTSD who smoke.

Substance Use in Persian Gulf War Veterans

Although the Persian Gulf War was brief, its impact was no less traumatic than other wars, and many veterans began to experience substance use problems as a result of developing PTSD. Here, information on the connection between PTSD symptoms and the development of alcohol and drug use problems among Persian Gulf War veterans is presented.

Alcohol Abuse in Veterans

Veterans have been found to experience a number of difficulties, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, physical health problems, and problems controlling anger. In addition, high rates of alcohol abuse in veterans are commonly found. However, despite these high rates of alcohol abuse, not much is known about why veterans may be at greater risk to develop alcohol use problems. It is possible that alcohol abuse may be a response to the experience of potentially traumatic events while in the military. Learn more about the connection between combat exposure and alcohol use among military veterans.

Smoking in Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans

One group of people that have been found to have high rates of smoking are veterans, especially those with a diagnosis of PTSD. In fact, if you have PTSD and smoke, it's important to know that you are not alone. Nearly one half of people with a current diagnosis of PTSD smoke, and it has been found that Vietnam veterans with PTSD in particular smoke at even higher rates. However, less is known about smoking among veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article provides some information on smoking in veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seeking Safety

Few treatments are available that are specifically designed for people with PTSD and substance abuse problems. One exception is Seeking Safety. This treatment has been found to be very successful in helping people with PTSD overcome their addiction. This article presents information on Seeking Safety and how to find out more information about this important treatment.

How I Overcame My Substance Abuse

If you have suffered from and overcome a substance use problem, share your story with others on how you overcame your addiction. If you still suffer from substance use, you may find the help you need in this article by reading the stories of others who found their way out of their addiction.
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