Veterans, PTSD and Drug Abuse

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD, is a persistent negative physical or emotional reaction to a traumatic or life-threatening event. Veterans returning from overseas — and especially those who fought in combat or survived another traumatic event — have a high risk of developing PTSD. Many individuals who suffer from PTSD try to take drugs or alcohol to cope with these negative reactions, and veteran drug abuse statistics aren’t pretty.

What to Know About Veterans and PTSD

According to the Veterans Administration, more than 20 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD also have a substance abuse disorder. About 33 percent of veterans with a substance abuse problem also have PTSD. Worst of all, veterans who have PTSD and a substance abuse disorder have an increased risk of death, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Overall, about 10 percent of veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

Now for the good news: It’s possible to successfully treat PTSD and substance abuse at the same time. Unfortunately, convincing a veteran that treatment is necessary may be challenging. Many individuals with PTSD and addiction are likely to deny there is a problem because of the way these diseases affect the brain. In addition, veterans often have other issues to address. These can include relationship problems, physical pain resulting from an injury sustained overseas, or difficulty maintaining employment.

How PTSD and Substance Abuse Affect Each Other

PTSD isn’t the only mental health disorder related to addiction. Many common health problems, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, panic and bipolar disorders, are closely linked with substance abuse. That’s because an individual who suffers from one of these disorders may not be aware that the disease is a problem. He may grow his addiction problem unknowingly as he increasingly relies on alcohol or drugs to help with insomnia, avoidance and anxiety.

Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs worsen the symptoms associated with PTSD. These symptoms include problems such as depression, irritability, trouble concentrating, paranoia, anxiety and motivation. Alcohol and many drugs also cause tolerance and physical dependency, which leads to withdrawal.

Getting Help for PTSD and Substance Abuse

There are several veterans substance abuse programs. Cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for both PTSD and addiction. CBT is a short-term therapy that identifies and treats the triggers that lead to negative actions, such as panic and substance abuse. These treatments help veterans cope and avoid stressors without unhealthy behaviors.

There are other effective treatments that are specific to addiction. The 12 Steps, family therapy, addiction counseling, fitness and nutrition, and fun activities can help individuals suffering with PTSD and substance abuse remember why living life sober is enjoyable. After rehab ends, many rehab centers, including 12 Keys, help veterans return to everyday life with a specific plan in place for additional support.

12 Keys Rehab is qualified to treat both PTSD and addiction, and we may be able to help you or your loved one. For more information, contact 12 Keys Rehab today.

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