PTSD and alcohol abuse may occur together due to the tendency of people diagnosed with PTSD to engage in self-destructive behavior and the desire to avoid thinking about the trauma.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use can frequently co-occur. PTSD and alcohol abuse may occur together due to the tendency of people diagnosed with PTSD to engage in self-destructive behavior and the desire to avoid thinking about the trauma.

Having PTSD and drinking to excess may be a form of avoidance symptoms. Someone with PTSD may experience mood swings or an overall depressed mood. Drinking alcohol, especially to excess, is likely to have similar effects on mood. Someone who experiences changes in mood or depressed feelings when drinking alcohol in addition to PTSD symptoms may be more likely to continue to drink excessively. They may feel that alcohol will prevent experiencing negative moods.

Article at a Glance:

  • PTSD and co-occurring alcohol use disorders are common but that does not stop the stigma associated
  • Alcohol may be used as an attempt to cope with trauma
  • The number of veterans seeking treatment for co-occurring substance use and PTSD has increased by at least 300 percent
  • Women are more likely than men to be affected by a traumatic experience but PTSD can develop in either gender

Do People Use Alcohol to Cope with PTSD?

A desire to avoid thinking about traumatic events or experiencing emotions relating to trauma may cause someone with PTSD to drink alcohol. Alcohol may provide temporary relief from intrusive thoughts but unfortunately, as the effects of alcohol wear off, the negative emotions associated with alcohol withdrawal may intensify the symptoms of PTSD that someone is attempting to avoid. Attempts to self-medicate with alcohol may put someone at risk of experiencing further traumatic experiences because alcohol abuse is related to the involvement of high-risk situations.

Some studies have indicated that people who are diagnosed with PTSD and abuse alcohol may drink in an attempt to experience positive emotions.  PTSD can rid someone of positive feelings and thoughts. Alcohol use may improve their mood but is more likely to temporarily numb negative feelings followed by more serious negative feelings as the effects wear off. It is also possible for alcohol use to intensify the negative feelings that are already experienced.

PTSD and Alcoholism Statistics

A review of PTSD and alcohol abuse statistics indicate that nearly 28 percent of women diagnosed with PTSD report concerns about alcohol abuse and dependence. Nearly 52 percent of men diagnosed with PTSD report similar problems. The National Center for PTSD estimates as many as 75 percent of trauma survivors experience an alcohol use disorder.

PTSD and Alcohol Abuse in Veterans

Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs indicates that as many as 63 percent of veterans diagnosed with alcohol use or other substance use disorder also meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. While PTSD does not result solely from trauma experienced with military duty, PTSD and alcohol abuse in veterans are occurring at higher rates than in the general population. Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder and PTSD have increased at least 300 percent in recent years.

PTSD and Alcoholism in Women

Women are more likely to report symptoms of alcohol use disorders than men. Further, women are more likely to experience a traumatic experience due to disproportionately being affected by domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sexual assault. Women affected by PTSD are more likely to use alcohol after the trauma experience, whereas men seem to be more likely to use other substances.

Dual Diagnosis: Treating PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

People seeking co-occurring PTSD and alcoholism treatment need to work with treatment professionals experienced in PTSD and alcohol treatment. The Recovery Village is experienced in treating alcohol and other substance use and co-occurring disorders like PTSD.

Integrated treatment that addresses both disorders is important to begin recovery. Treatment for co-occurring PTSD and alcohol use disorders may include both individual therapy and group therapy. Medication is available to assist with PTSD symptoms that can cause setbacks like intrusive nightmares. A team of professionals at The Recovery Village can assist in designing a comprehensive treatment plan to suit someone’s specific disorders.

How to Help a Loved One Struggling with PTSD and Alcohol Addiction

If a loved one is experiencing co-occurring PTSD and alcohol use disorders it is important to know how to get them the treatment they need.

Assisting PTSD alcoholic family members may be especially difficult because people aren’t labels, they’re just a loved one struggling with an alcohol addiction. However, one of the greatest predictors of positive treatment outcomes is social support. Making a loved one feel supported and understood can increase the likelihood of effective treatment. It may be especially challenging to mention treatment with a PTSD alcoholic spouse because they are a husband or wife, not their disease but by showing care and compassion, you could provide the motivation necessary to begin treatment.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism and co-occurring PTSD, recovery is possible. The experts at The Recovery Village offer comprehensive treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders. For more information reach out to a representative, today.

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Medically Reviewed By – Denise-Marie Griswold, LCAS
Denise-Marie Griswold is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist. She earned her Master's Degree in Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling from East Carolina University in 2014. Read more

PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2007, January 01). Retrieved from[…]blem_alcohol_use.asp

PTSD: National Center for PTSD. (2017, May 15). Retrieved from[…]urring/tx_sud_va.asp
The Role of Uncontrollable Trauma in the Development of PTSD and Alcohol Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Role of Uncontrollable Trauma in the Development of PTSD and…-a063506634

Tull, M. (n.d.). The Connection Between PTSD and Alcohol and Drug Use. Retrieved from

Kachadourian, L. K., Pilver, C. E., & Potenza, M. N. (2014). Trauma, PTSD, and binge and hazardous drinking among women and men: findings from a national study. Journal of psychiatric research, 55, 35-43.


Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.