PTSD and Alcohol Abuse In Veterans

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Image showing the stats of PTSD and alcohol abuse in veterans

Heavy alcohol consumption is a significant issue within the veteran population. Trauma, sexual assault in the service, war exposure, and despair can lead to or worsen a veteran’s drinking. Veterans who consume alcohol to deal with mental health concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may exacerbate their condition. Veterans who are struggling might find hope in therapy that tackles both their alcoholism and their mental health concerns.

After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 25 percent of veterans had PTSD, depression, anxiety, or a chemical dependency diagnosis. Nearly 30 percent of Vietnam war veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their life. Between 11-20 percent of those participating in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom experience PTSD. Only 14 percent of female veterans have admitted to binge drinking, compared to over 23 percent of male veterans.

The Link Between Alcohol Usage and Combat Exposure

Alcohol consumption’s association with military exposure, PTSD, and depression does not come as a surprise. In fact, a number of further studies have revealed a link between alcohol abuse and PTSD. Therefore, it has been hypothesized that persons with PTSD or who have undergone horrific events may be tempted to use alcohol or drugs in order to escape or reduce uncomfortable sensations.

Alcohol or drugs may be used to self-medicate uncomfortable thoughts or emotions brought on by PTSD, depression, or a traumatic life event. Regarding the relationship between alcohol and PTSD specifically, it has been observed that the degree of hyper arousal symptoms of PTSD is closely associated with the use of drugs that have a depressive or anti-anxiety effect, such as alcohol.

PTSD and Alcohol Abuse in Veterans: A Common Pair

When returning from war, post-traumatic stress disorder is the most prevalent mental health condition that veterans confront. After experiencing a traumatic event in which a person’s safety, life, or the life of a loved one is endangered, PTSD may develop. PTSD symptoms include:

  • Feeling more on-edge, irritable, and easily startled.
  • Changes in a person’s emotional state include feeling down, isolated from others, and unable to experience pleasure.
  • Avoid reminders of the trauma.
  • Reliving the event in some way, such as through nightmares or flashbacks.

PTSD often occurs in soldiers who were exposed to trauma during conflict or deployment. However, exposure to other sorts of trauma, such as maltreatment in childhood, sexual harassment, or training accidents, can also result in PTSD.

The relationship between PTSD and drinking is substantial. A comprehensive survey of individuals in the United States revealed that around 20 percent of those with PTSD relied on drugs or alcohol to cope with and alleviate their symptoms.

More than one in five veterans who suffer from PTSD also battle a drug use issue. About 10 percent of soldiers who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq have drug or alcohol issues. Of the 30 percent of Vietnam veterans who met the criteria for PTSD, 70 percent also struggled with alcoholism. When compared to before their deployment, excessive drinking is more common among military veterans who have suffered from war stress.

Some PTSD symptoms may be quickly alleviated by alcohol, which might encourage stronger and more frequent drinking, which may eventually result in an alcohol use disorder. For instance, alcohol withdrawal might exacerbate PTSD arousal symptoms. The veteran may have worsening PTSD symptoms in addition to the other problems that inevitably come when alcoholism intensifies and grows.

Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder in Veterans

While some people can use alcohol in moderation, others can find it difficult to do so. You may have an alcohol use disorder if your drinking causes issues in your life. Warning signs of alcohol use disorder are:

  • Needing to drink more alcohol to feel the desired effects.
  • Continuing to drink even though it causes or worsens physical or mental health disorders.
  • Continued to drink despite problems with family and friends.
  • Giving up activities that were once enjoyable because of alcohol.
  • Being unable to cut back on your drinking.
  • Spending significant time getting alcohol, drinking, or being hungover.
  • Drinking more or for longer than planned.
  • Being unable to keep up with responsibilities at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
  • Getting into dangerous situations while drinking (such as driving under the influence).
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, fever, hallucinations, and seizures, when you stop drinking or cut back.
  • Having strong cravings to drink.
Image showing the stats of PTSD and alcohol abuse in veterans

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does PTSD cause alcoholism?

Trauma and PTSD can cause alcohol problems up to one-third of persons who survive catastrophic accidents, illnesses, or disasters report alcoholism. Alcohol problems are more prevalent among trauma survivors with continuing health issues or suffering.

What is the VA disability rating for alcohol abuse?

  • Entitlement to an initial disability rating above 50 percent for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with secondary alcohol abuse, before May 17, 2013.
  • Entitlement to a disability rating above 70 percent for PTSD with secondary alcohol abuse, from May 17, 2013.

 Can veterans get a disability for alcoholism?

The VA now recognizes alcoholism as a secondary service-connected condition, meaning that veterans can apply for disability benefits for alcoholism provided that the alcoholism was brought on by another service-connected condition. This recognition stems from the fact that alcohol use disorder affects veterans at such a high rate.

What are the 4 symptoms of PTSD common in veterans?

The four most common symptoms of PTSD common in veterans include:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of interest
  • Recurring memories or nightmares of the event
  • Anger

Get Sober with the Help of The Recovery Team

When substance use develops into a compulsive response to pain, it might engender emotions of powerlessness and anxiety. It’s critical to get assistance if you or any of your family members are struggling with PTSD and substance abuse. Remember that you can be hurting not just yourself but also people around you.

Attempting alcohol detox on your own is so risky that it can endanger your life. The Recovery Team for veterans can provide a secure place for withdrawal as well as continuous therapy that addresses your drinking causes.

For information or additional resources to get professional help, contact our team of medical professionals at (800) 817-1247 today!