Understanding PTSD and Substance Use Disorder Flyer (PDF)
Some people try to cope with their Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms by drinking heavily, using drugs, or smoking too much. People with PTSD have more problems with drugs and alcohol both before and after getting PTSD. Also, even if someone does not have a problem with alcohol before a traumatic event, getting PTSD increases the risk that he or she will develop a drinking or drug problem.
Eventually, the overuse of these substances can develop into Substance Use Disorder (SUD), and treatment should be given for both PTSD and SUD to lead to successful recovery. The good news is that treatment of co-occurring (happening at the same time) PTSD and SUD works.
Studies show that there is a strong relationship between PTSD and SUD, in both civilian and military populations, as well as for both men and women.
Specific to Veterans:
If someone has both PTSD and SUD, it is likely that he or she also has other health problems (such as physical pain), relationship problems (with family and/or friends), or problems in functioning (like keeping a job or staying in school). Using drugs and/or alcohol can make PTSD symptoms worse.
VA has made it easier to get help. It is important to know that treatment can help and you are not alone.
Evidence shows that in general people have improved PTSD and SUD symptoms when they are provided treatment that addresses both conditions. This can involve any of the following (alone or together):
Talk with your provider about treatment for specific symptoms like pain, anger, or sleep problems.
The first step is to talk to a health professional and ask for more information about treatment options. Each VA medical center has an SUD-PTSD Specialist trained in treating both conditions to reach the best health outcomes. If there are signals you are at risk for both disorders, you will be encouraged to talk with a provider about how to best support your recovery. There are treatment resources at every VA medical center. The VA wants you to have the best possible care for co-occurring PTSD and SUD.
If you continue to be troubled or distracted by your experiences for more than three months or have questions about your drinking or drug use, learn more about treatment options. Life can be better! Talk to a VA or other health professional to discuss choices for getting started.