Alcohol and PTSD

Alcohol use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are two mental health disorders that commonly exist at the same time — a condition known as dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorders. Evidence reveals that people who suffer from PTSD are between two and four times more likely to also suffer from a substance use disorder than those without PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder and binge drinking is also common among U.S. war veterans who use alcohol to drive away bad memories surrounding combat trauma.

Alcohol and PTSD - Photo of a therapist listening to a soldier as he sits with his back to the camera looking over his shoulder. He is wearing camouflage.Co-occurring disorders can be fully treated at many addiction treatment centers. Post-traumatic stress disorder alcohol treatment usually involves an alcohol detox, followed by therapy that helps patients learn to manage and overcome trauma without relying on alcohol to escape their symptoms.

If you’re struggling with alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, understand that you’re not alone, and that treatment is available to help you overcome both disorders.

Here’s what you need to know about the link between alcohol addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder, and how to find PTSD alcohol treatment.

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Can Alcoholism Cause post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD is widely known to trigger alcohol addiction, but can alcoholism cause post-traumatic stress disorder? The answer is yes. People who binge drink and abuse alcohol are often at increased risk for events like car accidents and domestic violence that result in trauma. Alcohol abuse can also drive conflicts and feelings of isolation among family members, and lead to situations that sometimes result in PTSD.

A recent study conducted by researchers at University of North Carolina School of Medicine found that heavy alcohol use can rewire brain circuitry in a way that makes it more difficult for alcoholics to recover from traumatic events. Alcoholics who continue experiencing anxiety, flashbacks, and fear in wake of traumatic events may eventually be diagnosed with PTSD.

Does Alcohol Make PTSD Worse?

Many who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder use alcohol in an effort to cope with their symptoms, or to make them disappear. But alcohol has actually been shown to worsen some post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms including insomnia, depression, and nightmares. Drinking alcohol to self-medicate for PTSD makes it more difficult for you to cope with stress and bad memories, and can even lead to problems with alcohol dependence and addiction.

A common alcohol PTSD trigger is insomnia. Insomnia can be caused by other PTSD symptoms such as stress, anxiety, agitation, and fear — all of which can spike your body’s cortisol and adrenaline levels to keep you awake. But some people who suffer PTSD-induced insomnia will turn to alcohol under the impression it helps them sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol spikes your blood sugar to cause restless sleep, and can worsen problems with insomnia.

Nightmares are another common alcohol PTSD trigger. Some who suffer from PTSD may drink alcohol with hopes of eliminating bad dreams, or reducing the horrifying elements of their nightmares. But alcohol fails to address the root cause of bad dreams, and can lead to prolonged symptoms of PTSD.

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PTSD and Binge Drinking: What You Should Know

Binge drinking rates tend to be higher among those who suffer from PTSD compared to the general population. Two separate studies examined the effects of the 9/11 attacks and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on binge drinking rates among those exposed to these events. Researchers found that binge drinking rates were highest among those who experienced the greatest exposure and highest levels of trauma from these disasters.

Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and binge drinking increases your risk for a blackout. A blackout occurs when you consume too much alcohol in a short period of time, which causes your blood alcohol levels to rise more rapidly. A PTSD alcohol blackout is an interval of time during which you cannot remember certain events while consuming alcohol, and usually happens after binge drinking sessions.

The Center for Disease Control reports that one in every six adults in the U.S. engages in binge drinking about four times per month. Though binge drinking may be common, binge drinking to treat symptoms of PTSD can increase the risk for problems with alcohol dependence and addiction down the road.

How to Find PTSD Alcohol Treatment

PTSD and alcohol use disorder can be safely treated using alcohol detox and therapy. Detox treatments can help you overcome physical dependence on alcohol, while therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you face and cope with traumatic experiences driving your PTSD.

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If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 877-959-7271 to speak in private with a specialist. Find Addiction rehabs will help you find nearby post-traumatic stress disorder alcohol treatment, and help you overcome your co-occurring disorders so you can move forward with recovering from addiction.