PTSD and Alcohol Abuse | How Alcohol Affects PTSD

PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

drinking alcohol to treat PTSD

As the nation faces a healthcare pandemic and struggles to gain footing on a mounting addiction epidemic, heightened stress and anxiety levels have become the new norm. Still, there are plenty of misconceptions and myths surrounding dual diagnosis for mental health and substance misuse. That’s why now is a critical time to better understand PTSD and alcohol abuse, particularly recognizing each condition’s symptoms. Discussing available resources and treatment options for mental health and substance abuse can make a world of difference.

Mental health is serious and impacts millions of lives every day. Now, more than ever, Americans need access to care and treatment for co-occurring disorders like PTSD and alcohol abuse. AspenRidge can help provide services through our online treatment programs. Contact us today directly at 720-650-8055.

Ptsd And Alcohol Addiction

What is Dual Diagnosis?

In order to better explain the correlations of PTSD and alcohol abuse, known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), it’s essential to first understand what dual diagnosis means. Having a dual diagnosis is not a rare phenomenon. In fact, about one in four adults with a mental illness also struggles with a substance use disorder (SUD). Some studies indicate that as many as half of those with a drug or alcohol problem also suffer from some form of mental illness.

Untreated mental health conditions often compound the dangers of addiction. The presence of co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders is known as a dual diagnosis. Currently, more than 20 million adults in the United States experience substance use disorder, yet only three million individuals receive treatment for co-occurring disorders.

Drug Misuse: Mental Health Effects

According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic use of some drugs can lead to both short- and long-term changes in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

The same study noted that people suffering from drug addiction are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. Additionally, in 2015, an estimated 43.4 million (18%) adults age 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness. Of these, over 8 million had a dual diagnosis. Studies remain unclear about the causes of each or whether underlying risk factors contribute to both disorders.

Common drugs known to cause mental health problems include:

  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • Methamphetamine
  • Prescription medication

More commonly, alcohol is linked to debilitating mental illness. In the case of PTSD, alcohol misuse is a common issue.

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a form of mental health illness that may cause significant dysfunction for the person suffering. PTSD is often considered within the anxiety disorder class of mental illnesses due to the significant arousal level, hyper-awareness, physical responses, and avoidance of stressful events.

PTSD also has several major depression disorder components, including isolation, addiction, lack of trust, and mood swings. Because of the complexities of PTSD, it is critical to seek properly trained professionals when considering treatment. It is important to ask about possible trauma-related therapies with your doctor. Some common trauma-related treatments include:

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Internal Family Systems (IFS)
  • Biofeedback
  • Brainspotting
  • Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Individual/Family Psychotherapy
  • Group Therapy

There are several treatments available for PTSD and trauma-related disorders. If you seek further options for trauma treatments and struggle with addiction, please reach out to AspenRidge and make our mental health and substance use self-assessments. These quizzes provide clarity into proper steps when considering trauma and addiction treatments. We offer support for PTSD and alcohol abuse.

Ptsd And Alcohol Abuse

PTSD and Self-Medicating

Those suffering from mental health disorders often self medicate, and particularly when symptoms become unmanageable. People experiencing severe symptoms of PTSD may seek to manage these issues with alcohol. The occurrence of PTSD and alcohol abuse further confirms the need for resources and treatment programs that address co-occurring conditions.

According to Alcohol Research and health, many of those with PTSD will turn to alcohol as a means of replacing the feeling brought on by the brain’s naturally produced endorphins. However, the positive effects of alcohol are only ever temporary.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and drug abuse fall into the category of avoidance symptoms, as the individual may use chemicals to avoid memories or to numb fear. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can worsen PTSD and interfere with normal sleep patterns. Under the influence of alcohol, someone with PTSD is more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior such as driving under the influence, engaging in unsafe environments, or facing legal interactions.

For this reason, PTSD and alcohol abuse can often lead to incarceration, poverty, and chronic unemployment.

Understanding PTSD & Current Statistics

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a difficult and challenging mental health issue. In recent years, the criteria for PTSD has transformed in a way that makes its diagnosis even more complex. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Trauma or Stressor-Related Disorders can be connected to a series or a sequence of events that drastically overburden an individual’s coping strategies.

In 2015, trauma-related disorders accounted for approximately 46% of deaths and healthcare costs of approximately $671 billion annually. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer combined account for 40% of deaths and cost roughly the same as trauma alone in the United States annually.

Trauma is a significant health factor in the United States and should be treated carefully and properly to avoid losses. One aspect often ignored as part of PTSD or a trauma-related disorder is an addiction and its high correlation with trauma. Over 30% of those struggling with PTSD also struggle with both alcohol or other drug addiction. For further facts on PTSD and information on PTSD and alcohol and other drug use, please visit

What Are Symptoms of PTSD?

Treating PTSD and alcohol abuse often begins with addressing both conditions. After a traumatic event, people with PTSD experience a range of symptoms. Generally, symptoms manifest through avoidance and isolation. The nature of the disorder suggests that many interpret and process trauma differently. However, traumatic events trigger PTSD, which is why the condition is prevalent among military members who have been involved in overseas conflict. However, this mental illness is not only limited to trained soldiers. An estimated 9% of the U.S. population matches the criteria of PTSD, with women more likely to develop symptoms than men.

Common Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Relationship Problems
  • Headaches or Stomach Aches

Less common symptoms may occur and can include:

  • Hallucinations or Delusions
  • Self-harming Behavior
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • Agoraphobia
  • Inability to maintain employment

PTSD and alcohol abuse often occur together. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to three-quarters of people who have survived abuse or traumatic events report drinking problems. Up to a third of those who survive traumatic accidents, illness, and disaster report drinking problems.

PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol use and substance use disorder are commonly diagnosed alongside PTSD. Unfortunately, alcohol and other drugs can intensify or worsen symptoms of PTSD. Individuals with co-occurring PTSD report more intense cravings for alcohol and drugs and tend to relapse more quickly than individuals without PTSD.

Because avoidance is a key component in both PTSD and alcohol abuse, it should be addressed properly to minimize the potential of addiction. The most proven methodologies to treat PTSD and alcohol abuse include:

  • Therapy sessions that address risky behavior
  • Strategies that help set boundaries
  • Addressing coping triggers

Exploration of past trauma should be taken in strides. Widely known as Seeking Safety, this treatment is back by evidence-based studies. Options provide many suffering from co-occurring disorders with relief and a strategy to manage symptoms of trauma. Seeking Safety is a present-focused therapy that helps individuals establish a safe environment by emphasizing coping skills, grounding techniques, and education. The strategy for managing PTSD and alcohol abuse often includes:

  • Helping clients attain a safe environment to manage thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships
  • Providing clients with integrated treatment options that address both PTSD and alcohol abuse
  • Letting go of a perception that highlights loss and suffering

Engaging in trauma-focused treatments with a trained professional is highly recommended and extremely important.

Alcohol Abuse And Ptsd

AspenRidge: Treating PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

AspenRidge has developed a multi-faceted, integrative dual diagnosis treatment program. AspenRidge understands that trauma may have a substantial impact on substance use and dependence.

We offer trauma-focused care that addresses alcohol abuse as well as underlying complex trauma. Since trauma can manifest in many forms like PTSD, we provide an integrative strategy that supports individuals at every stage. After a thorough evaluation, we tailor our treatment program, whether in-person or online, to fit clients’ needs.

Our Colorado addiction treatment center believes that mental health, trauma, and family systems are at the root of recovery. Our certified, trained addiction specialists and therapists focus on healing these systems and providing each individual with the tools they need to grow and sustain a long term recovery.

Our Dual Diagnosis Approach

AspenRidge operates from an evidence-based and holistic perspective. Our dual diagnosis treatment center works to provide a safe environment for those who have experienced past trauma or other stressful events that often make it challenging to overcome the disease of addiction.

Contact AspenRidge Recovery Centers directly 24/7 by dialing 855-678-3144 to schedule an assessment or speak to our staff about various programs. We offer a continuum of care focused on transitioning each client as they progress through our programs. Further information can be found by visiting our page about post-traumatic stress disorder here.

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