PTSD, Veterans and Addiction

PTSD and addiction in veterans - New Life Medical Addiction Services

Addiction treatment for America’s veterans, many of whom suffer from PTSD, is a very important issue and the doctors and staff at New Life Medical Addiction Services are committed to helping those people who have given so much to our country.

Addiction among veterans has been a significant issue for many years now and the challenge has been exacerbated by the rise of opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain killers.

What makes many veterans susceptible to addiction are the traumas of physical injuries resulting from deployment and the challenges presented in readjusting to civilian life after deployment, especially if there is PTSD involved. Too often, veterans suffering from PTSD turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their PTSD symptoms.

PTSD Among Our Nation’s Warriors

Although members of every branch of the U.S. Armed Services can experience substance use disorders and addiction, both before and after their deployments, research shows a clear link between PTSD and SUD. Even if a service member doesn’t have a substance use disorder before deployment, experiencing PTSD greatly increases the risk of developing one after returning home.

Studies show that there is potential for PTSD to manifest itself after a range of traumatic events that can include combat, terror attacks, sexual assaults, and other dramatic situations. Furthermore, a person can develop PTSD due to these things happening to their friends or others around them.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms of PTSD include:

Intrusive memories

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event.
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks).
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event.
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.


  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event.
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event.

Negative changes in thinking and mood

  • Negative thoughts about yourself, other people or the world.
  • Hopelessness about the future.
  • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event.
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships.
  • Feeling detached from family and friends.
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.

Changes in physical and emotional reactions

  • Being easily startled or frightened.
  • Always being on guard for danger.
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior.
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame.

Although PTSD sometimes develops immediately after the event, it’s possible that it’s symptoms won’t manifest for weeks, months or even years. It is when these symptoms start affecting daily life for veterans, including work, family and school, that it becomes important to seek treatment.

Some veterans suffering from PTSD also have co-occurring mental health issues that were  unaddressed until their PTSD became evident. Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts can all contribute to the symptoms of PTSD, and, in some service members, these can also lead to or worsen problems with drug or alcohol.

PTSD and Addiction in Veterans

In general, military personnel and combat veterans have a higher instance than the general population of substance use disorders. Furthermore, it is estimated that approximately 11 percent of combat veterans suffer from a substance use disorder or addiction at some point in their lives.

Many clinicians believe that, for people who suffer from PTSD, the most widely accepted reason for the link between PTSD and addiction is that they are self-medicating. This means that they are using sedating, tranquilizing and otherwise mind-altering drugs and alcohol to forget about the traumatic event or to numb the symptoms of PTSD caused by the event.

Societal reintegration of combat veterans is difficult, and often, veterans are expected to adjust quickly and without much support or care. This kind of neglect of our nation’s finest can make the symptoms of mental health disorders, including PTSD, much more severe.

War Injuries and Trauma

War injuries and trauma are a significant cause of PTSD in veterans. From lost limbs, concussions, loss of hearing or vision, to chronic headaches and back pain, the list of ailments from veterans returning from war zones is large.

Because of the severity of the injuries, doctors often alleviate pain from combat injuries with prescription opioids. While opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin have proven successful in treating pain, they are highly addictive, and veterans are at a higher risk for developing a dependence or addiction to them.

Dependence on and addiction to opioids and alcohol is also linked to homelessness and suicide among veterans as well.

Problems at Home

PTSD and addiction can cause problems with trust, intimacy, communication, and problem solving in relationships between veterans and their loved ones and other people close to them.

The trauma they’ve experienced can cause flashbacks, mood swings, aggression and isolation and can combine with the symptoms of drug addiction to increase these problems. Spouses, partners, friends, work associates and family members may feel distanced from their loved one and substance abuse or drinking can increase the emotional distance between loved ones and increase the feelings of isolation and depression in the person struggling with PTSD.

If you or someone you love or know is a veteran struggling with substance misuse or addiction, then you need to contact New Life Medical Addiction Services today. Our caring staff will work to improve the life of the person who has given so selflessly of themselves for the sake of our nation.

Call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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