PTSD substance abuse



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Here are a few non-commercial veterans resources kindly provided to us by Linda Johnson of

Resources provided by additional contributors

The following was submitted by Timothy Stoddart, Founder, Sober Nation

The Correlation Between PTSD in Veterans and Addiction

The following three resources were provided by Megan Bishop, Outreach Specialist

These are some of their most popular evidence-based articles on PTSD and addiction:

Treatment Options for PTSD and Addiction

Private Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment Options

The Link Between PTSD and Alcoholism

Military Skills Translation Resources for Veterans and Active Duty Service Members

Contributed by Drug Rehab Connections: Alcohol Self-Assessment Test

Veterans And Addiction – Resources for Substance Abuse And Mental Health Disorders - Ohio Area

The Recovery Village, FL, OH, CO, MD, WA - Substance Abuse Resources for Veterans

How to get help with the transition back to civilian life, housing and financial help, employment support and much more. Help for American Veterans

College Degree Opportunities: Understanding a Veteran with PTSD

Veteran’s Guide to Saving on Housing Costs

The following provided by Jim Lucas, Community Manager, Birchgold

List of resources for veterans’ financial security

The following provided by Carmen Adams, a masters student at SDSU

Predatory car sales to military members (avoiding and spotting scams)

Provided by a commercial site, RentPath, LLC.. Find Military Housing

Resource Guide for Homeless Veterans  Provided by

Contingency Management Helps Veterans Stay Drug-Free, an addiction-fighting method. Provided by Sunshine Behavioral Health

*We are neither endorsing nor recommending any commercial sites listed here. We do not collect any fees or compensation from these providers. We offer these resources purely to serve our veteran’s community.

PTSD and Addiction Among Veterans: Causes, Comorbidity, and Treatment

April 2, 2019
By: Cassidy Webb

While the United States is fighting a fatal drug epidemic that is at fault for the deaths of far too many young people, veteran substance abuse continues to pose a growing problem in the nation. As military personnel are returning home from deployment, they are suffering from a vast variety of mental and physical health problems as a result of their experiences. With the comorbidity of co-occurring mental illnesses, such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse being so prevalent, many veterans are suffering in silence from the progressive, chronic disease of addiction.

PTSD and Veterans
Due to the nature of military service and combat, many veterans are frequently exposed to life-threatening events that can lead to the development of PTSD. When stress is brought on by a traumatic experience, the brain enters a fight or flight response causing the alteration of brain chemicals and heart rate. Adrenaline begins to flow and blood pressure rises. While this response is a natural way for people to protect themselves against harm, those who experience this stress persistently after the danger has passed may have PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD can begin shortly after the traumatic event occurs and could last a lifetime without treatment. These symptoms can include:

  • Recall of memories from the event or flashbacks

  • Difficulty coping with and expressing emotions

  • May avoid situations that remind them of the traumatic event

  • Jittery composure or unprecedented anger

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair

Although statistics vary depending on the length of time in the military and the severity of the trauma, there is substantial evidence that veterans suffer from high rates of PTSD. In a study on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, it suggests that 14% suffer from PTSD and 39% suffer from alcohol abuse. For Vietnam veterans, rates of PTSD have been found to be as high as 31%. Despite the high necessity for treatment, as many as 50% of veterans who have PTSD do not receive the treatment they need.

PTSD can be a terrifying disorder that is difficult to cope with. For this reason, many veterans turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with their emotions.

Co-Occurring Disorders

The symptoms of PTSD are severe and can cause a lot of emotional distress on those who suffer from it. Unfortunately, many find solace by turning to drugs or alcohol to suppress their emotions and manage their symptoms as drugs and alcohol can increase pleasure, decrease anxiety, and distract an individual from their emotions. The comorbidity of PTSD and drug abuse is so severe that studies have found that nearly 52% of men and 28% of women with PTSD also have a substance use disorder.

While drugs and alcohol may allow individuals with PTSD to cope with their emotions in the short term, this often turns into a pattern of abuse that can lead to an addiction. After a substance is abused over an extended period of time, it becomes harder for the brain to regulate healthy amounts of dopamine. When the substances are suddenly removed, a person may experience a shortage of dopamine resulting in withdrawal symptoms. In turn, using substances to cope with the symptoms of PTSD can actually worsen symptoms. An affected person may suffer from insomnia, impaired judgment, and may engage in risky behaviors such as impaired driving or other illegal, dangerous activities.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

The cycle of PTSD and drug abuse is a vicious one if left untreated. On the other hand, if a person seeks treatment but only one condition is treated, they are left highly susceptible to relapse. Fortunately, forms of integrated therapy like dual-diagnosis can help treat both mental illness and substance use disorders simultaneously.

In order to get away from the persistent fight or flight mode that is so common with a PTSD diagnosis, it is important that the individual learns to identify and cope with their PTSD triggers by working closely with psychiatric and addiction specialists. Dual diagnosis therapy will generally consist of different treatment modalities, such as group therapy, individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and trauma-informed care. Individuals will be encouraged to look at their past and get to the root of their problems as well as learn of healthy coping techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.

Another benefit of dual diagnosis therapy is that clients will be able to get the right medications, like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, to better treat their mental health. This combination of counseling, support, and medical treatment is typically used to help an individual with co-occurring PTSD and addiction reach a place where they are mentally and physically stable.

Treating addiction hand in hand with mental illness increases the likelihood of maintaining sobriety in the long term, and with the proper diagnosis and medications, symptoms of PTSD can be effectively managed.

Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

What the New York Times gets wrong about PTSD

May 19, 2016

Science Daily/Drexel University

In analyzing the articles the New York Times has written about post-traumatic stress disorder over the last 35 years, researchers found some troubling trends in the influential paper's coverage.


Believe it or not, both the public and policy-makers often get their ideas from the media. When those ideas are formed about something as serious and impactful as posttraumatic stress disorder, it's important for the media to tell the story in the right way.


With that in mind, Drexel researchers examined how the country's most influential paper, the New York Times, portrayed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the year it was first added to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1980) to present day (2015).


"Mass media shape public awareness about mental health issues and affect mental illness problem recognition, management, and treatment-seeking by providing information about risk factors, symptoms, coping strategies, and treatment options," said Jonathan Purtle, DrPH, assistant professor in Drexel's Dornsife School of Public Health and the study's principle investigator. "Mass media also influence community attitudes about mental illness and educate policymakers about whether and how to address them."


Between 1980 and 2015, 871 news articles mentioned PTSD. In their American Journal of Orthopsychiatry paper, Purtle and his co-authors, Katherine Lynn and Marshal Malik, pointed out three specific issues in the Times' coverage that could have negative consequences.


"New York Times portrayals of populations affected by PTSD do not reflect the epidemiology of the disorder."


The Drexel team found that 50.6 percent of the Times' articles focused on military cases of PTSD, including 63.5 percent of the articles published in the last 10 years.


In actuality, Purtle's past research showed that most PTSD cases are related to noncombat traumas in civilians. The number of civilians affected by PTSD is 13 times larger than the number of military personnel affected by the disorder.


Occurrences are also much more likely in those who survive non-combat traumas, which include sexual assault (30-80 percent of survivors develop PTSD), nonsexual assault (23-39 percent develop it), disasters (30-40 percent) and car crashes (25-33 percent), among other causes. Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have just a 20 percent occurrence of PTSD.


However, coverage like that in the Times leads the general public to believe that a PTSD diagnosis requires some military component. And 91.4 percent of all legislative proposals involving PTSD between 1989 and 2009 focused only on military populations, with 81.7 percent focusing on combat as a cause (the next highest cause was sexual assault, at 5.5 percent).


"PTSD was negatively framed in many articles."


Self-stigma attached to PTSD has been identified as a strong barrier to seeking treatment.


As such, with fewer and fewer articles over the years mentioning treatment options (decreasing from 19.4 percent of all PTSD-focused articles in 1980-1995 to just 5.7 percent in 2005-2015), it is particularly harmful when articles focused on negative portrayals of those with PTSD.


Purtle and his researchers found that 16.6 percent of the articles were about court cases in which the defendant potentially had PTSD, while 11.5 percent of other articles talked about substance abuse.


"These negative themes could create misconceptions that people who have PTSD are dangerous and discourage employers from hiring prospective employees with the disorder," Purtle said.


"Most themes in the New York Times PTSD articles pertained to proximal causes and consequences of the disorder."


Most articles in the study's 35-year focus centered on the traumatic exposure that led to PTSD, as well as the symptoms that result from the disorder. They rarely told stories of survivors and prevention.


Although nearly three quarters of articles mentioned a traumatic cause of PTSD, concepts such as risk/protective factors or prevention were barely mentioned. Risk/protective factors were only mentioned in 2.6 percent of articles and prevention was only mentioned in 2.5 percent.


Almost a third of the articles reviewed discussed some kind of symptom -- nightmares (13.1 percent of the time), depression (12.3 percent) and flashbacks (11.7 percent) being most common.


"This narrow focus could inhibit awareness about PTSD resilience and recovery and constrain discourse about the social determinants of traumatic stress, which is needed to garner political support for policy interventions," the Drexel team wrote.


What Can Be Done?


Purtle, Lynn and Malik believe that broadening the discourse on PTSD can lead to better outcomes. Some ways that that can be achieved are focusing on survivor narratives that discussing resiliency and recovery, or talking about research that doesn't wholly focus on the military causes of the disorder.

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