The relationship between addiction and PTSD in combat veterans

Military veteran sits in wheelchair, watching a sunsetServing your country can mean your life. This is the role of many soldiers around the world. Serving means putting your life on the line. Meanwhile, survivors may have to deal with the trauma they have experienced in war zones for the rest of their lives. Often, this trauma can lead to addiction or even death, but not the kind commonly seen in war.

Why do veterans develop addiction?

Why are so many veterans turning to substance use? Many people who have served in the United States military combat with addiction, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or both. Veterans participating in combat missions are likely to be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This condition often leads to depression. To avoid getting into this situation, many try to turn to alcohol or drugs to temporarily improve the situation, but they do not. Traumatic events often cause drug and alcohol abuse that can lead to addiction.

Traumatic events often cause drug and alcohol abuse that can lead to addiction.

It has been reported by the White House Office of National Drug Control that 7.1% of veterans who settled in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2006 developed a substance abuse disorder. The study concluded that the problem was due to the forced abuse of controlled substances after their development. In the same report, many veterans were reported to have symptoms of mental health symptoms, such as disturbing thoughts and flashbacks of traumatic situations they had seen, experienced, or felt. He was constantly on high alert with widespread anxiety and depression.

Often, these soldiers may feel unsafe, no matter where they go or what they do, which adversely affects their daily lives. Not only that, but their families can also experience the same anxiety and anxiety.

Many addicted veterans are also at risk of insomnia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), relationship problems and suicide.

PTSD, alcohol and drugs

Heavy drinking has been in the military for a long time, but for those most recently stationed in war zones in Afghanistan or Iraq, alcohol consumption has accumulated. One reason for this is PTSD, also called "battle fatigue" or "shell shock", as it is caused by extreme stress following tragic or exciting events on the battlefield.

Veterans can also develop PSTD if they have been subjected to any sexual abuse. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, anywhere from 23% to 33% of female veterans reported sexual assault during their military service. Many veterans may turn to substance and alcohol abuse to self-medicate or alleviate their pain and forget about the traumatic experience.

About 20% of veterans have reported drinking beer once a week. However, for those exposed to combat, the rates are even higher. In fact, from 2003 to 2009, about 56% of veterans experienced alcohol dependence at some point. In some cases, veterans who are prescribed drugs for PTSD and pain eventually turn into illegal drugs such as heroin. Not only is heroin often cheaper than prescription medication, but it can also be easier to obtain. It is easy to see how many veterans depend on substances such as heroin after being launched into service.

In addition to alcohol, painkillers and other prescription drugs are among the most abused substances by veterans. This is because some veterans depend on painkillers to treat pain and pain-related injuries. Over time, they may become addicted to the substance, begin to need more to get the same result, and continue to develop an addiction.

Veterans may also find that they develop such high tolerance that when they decide to stop using it, withdrawal symptoms become more severe. Some doctors avoid this by prescribing non-addictive antidepressants such as Zoloft and Paxil. Because of this, many supporters are now pushing for better and stricter regulations on prescription drugs that can lead to addiction. Some of the most commonly abused painkillers and antidepressants from veterans are:

Many veterans have a difficult time overcoming addiction due to their drug and alcohol dependence. Combine it with their withdrawal symptoms and PTSD, it would be almost impossible to stop using substances.

Addiction treatment for veterans

It may seem hopeless, but no matter how difficult the situation is, addiction can be effectively fought and tackled. If you are a veteran who needs treatment for addiction, you can use inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs at rehabilitation centers. This can be achieved through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which can assist war veterans who cannot find an affordable treatment plan. The Ministry of Veterans Affairs offers the following programs:


When the use of substances becomes a forced response to pain, it can cause feelings of helplessness and fear. Addiction can often increase emotional pain in the long run and negatively affect your health, relationships and other parts of your life.

If you are a veteran dealing with PTSD and substance abuse, it is important to seek help. Keep in mind that you can not only damage yourself but also those around you. Contact a specialist for treatment so they can create a recovery plan for you. Take control of your life again and start again – it's not too late to ask for help.

Bibliographical references:

  1. How is heroin linked to abuse of prescription drugs? (2018). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from
  2. Institute of Medicine (USA) Committee for Initial Assessment of the Adaptation Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and Their Families. (2010). Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington, DC: National Press Academy.
  3. Juergens, J. (2019, July 16). Why Veterans Turn to Drugs and Alcohol Addiction Center. Retrieved from
  4. Juergens, J. (2019, August 26). Alcoholism in veterans. Rehab Spot. Retrieved from
  5. Kintzle, S., Schuyler, A.C., Ray-Letourneau, D., Ozuna, S.M., Munch, C., Xintarianos, E., Hasson, A.M., & Castro, C.A. (2015). Sexual Trauma in the Army: Exploring PTSD Use and Mental Health Care in Veteran Women. Psychological Services, 12(4), 394-402. Retrieved from
  6. Substance Use: Programs and Services. (n.d.). US Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved from

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