Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Whether it is due to their job, combat experiences, natural disasters, or sexual assault, people with PTSD are more at risk for substance abuse issues.

What is the correlation and why are those with PTSD more at risk? This article will help answer some of the questions about what PTSD is, why some with PTSD suffer from substance abuse, and how to get help.

What Is PTSD?

Shell shock was the name PTSD was once called during WWI. According to

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

As referenced above, even those who work certain jobs can experience symptoms indicative of PTSD. Think about police officers, corrections officers, and EMTs who see violence and feel heartache sometimes on a daily basis.

PTSD affects or will affect around eight people out of 100 during their lifetime. While women get PTSD more often than men, it is a problem no matter what gender. When combined with substance abuse, it is an even more serious issue.

Those who have PTSD often experience the traumatic event over and over. They replay it in their mind. Some are always anxious over the next time something similar may happen.

For example, a person who went through a natural disaster like a tornado may cringe when they hear the wind blow. A person who was in combat may be frightened by loud noises that resemble combat situations. And for those with PTSD from sexual abuse, even an accidental touch can be a serious event.

This disorder can happen to anyone, and an estimated rate is almost 4 percent of the people in the United States having PTSD.

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Why Do Those With PTSD Have a Higher Risk of Substance Abuse?

To learn more about why someone with PTSD is more susceptible to substance abuse, let’s look at the biology and science behind it.

We all have something called GABA, which is short for gamma-aminobutyric acid. This component acts like a biological tranquilizer. When we experience stress, this component is lowered. On the flip side, adrenaline increases.

Drugs tend to stimulate this so that the person is getting an unnatural response. Think of it like the good feeling that the gamma-aminobutyric acid creates, then imagine getting that same feeling with drugs.

Drugs also do something else. They increase dopamine levels in the brain. And dopamine is what tells us to be happy. It’s like a message from the brain. Of course, when the drugs wear off, so does that happy feeling, because the dopamine decreases.

Some people who have PTSD and substance abuse problems “medicate” to feel happy. They need that experience of a happy feeling when they are surrounded by sadness. The drugs, however, only work temporarily. And once a tolerance is built up, the person needs more and more of the drug to feel the same way.


What Do the Statistics Show?

Almost 67 percent of those with post-traumatic stress disorder are dealing with substance abuse, according to an article in Time. And statistics from the journal Clinical Psychology show that those with post-traumatic stress disorder are between two and four times as likely to have substance abuse issues as those who do not have PTSD.

Here are the statistics of a study posted on BMC Medicine:

  • 92 percent of the study group is male
  • Over 76 percent are Caucasian
  • Over 60 percent served in the Army, almost 21 percent in the Marine, over 10 percent in the Navy, and over 8 percent in the Air Force
  • Service eras include WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and other conflicts
  • Over 54 percent had moderate PTSD
  • Over 64 percent had major depressive disorder
  • Almost 38 percent used nicotine
  • Over 40 percent had a past or current substance abuse history
  • Almost 69 percent had a history of alcohol abuse

This particular study focused more on metabolic syndrome. Yet, the results of the study still showcase the real problem of prevalence in the correlation between PTSD and substance abuse.

Treatment for PTSD and Substance Abuse Is Available

Although there is plenty of evidence showing how PTSD and substance abuse go hand in hand, there is treatment available.

At Transformations Treatment Center, there are many treatment avenues available. Here are a few of the options you can expect:

  • EMDR therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Pain, stress, and anxiety therapy
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Neurofeedback
  • Biofeedback

Along with all of those options, everything is in a non-clinical setting. In fact, h olistic nutrition with dieticians, natural supplement protocol, and chiropractic services are available as well as a health club and a private trainer. There is also beach time and scheduled pool times.

The most important aspects are the treatment itself. A combination of conventional treatment and non-conventional treatment allows the patient to experience the best available. For instance, experiential treatment includes options like adventure therapy, music therapy, social interaction, and the serenity lounge.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing PTSD along with substance abuse, there is successful treatment available. Please contact us and let us tell you more about how we can help.