What’s PTSD? How is it Connected to Substance Misuse?

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2021

PTSD dictionary definitition graphicJune is PTSD Awareness Month 

Post-traumatic stress disorder – also known as PTSD – can develop after a person sees or experiences a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.  

It’s probably more common than you think. Between 7- 8% of Americans have dealt with PTSD at some point in their lives.

While this disorder is more often linked to military veterans, anyone who experiences an assault, a natural disaster, an accident, the death of a loved one, or serious health problems can also develop PTSD. 

Symptoms can include flashbacks, anxiety, frightening thoughts, and more, according to the National Institute on Mental Health.  

In an effort to cope, many turn to misusing substances to cope with the difficult emotions.  


From the National Center of PTSD

According to one national epidemiologic study, 46.4% of individuals with lifetime PTSD also met criteria for [Substance Use Disorder] (1). In another national epidemiologic study, 27.9% of women and 51.9% of men with lifetime PTSD also had SUD (2). Women with PTSD were 2.48 times more likely to meet criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence and 4.46 times more likely to meet criteria for drug abuse or dependence than women without PTSD. Men were 2.06 and 2.97 times more likely, respectively (2). 


But substance misuse can only provide temporary relief. In fact, it can actually make things worse in the long run since people can become addicted while trying to control PTSD symptoms. 

With the help of your healthcare provider, this disorder can be treated in an effective way.  Options could include psychotherapy or various alternative treatments. Learn more about them.

If you are or know anyone struggling with PTSD, learn how you can find a therapist on the National Center of PTSD's website



See More Resources: 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (National Institute of Mental Health)

High Rates of Marijuana Use Among PTSD Sufferers (Very Well Mind)

Self-Medicating Is a Risky Form of Self-Treatment for PTSD (Very Well Mind)


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