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Alcohol and Substance Use in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Table of Contents


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can happen after a traumatic event. This is a very upsetting event that you see or that happens to you or a loved one. A sexual assault, a car crash, a natural disaster, and war are examples of this type of event.

PTSD affects people in different ways. It can get in the way of school or work. It can also make you withdraw from friends or loved ones. Some people use alcohol or drugs to help relieve their symptoms. This can lead to problems.

If you have PTSD and use alcohol or drugs, you're more likely to get a substance use disorder. Like PTSD, a substance use disorder is a mental health condition. It affects your brain and behavior. When you have this condition, it's very hard to control your use of substances. Substances include alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Symptoms of substance use disorder

The more symptoms of substance use disorder you have, the more severe it may be. Symptoms include:

Caring for yourself

If you have been diagnosed with PTSD and are concerned about your use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or other substances, there are some things you can do.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

Credits for Alcohol and Substance Use in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Current as of: October 20, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jessica Hamblen PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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