Veterans, PTSD, and Substance Abuse

Understanding PTSD and Veterans

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying, often traumatic life changing event(s). There are many reasons why Veterans have PTSD. It could be from witnessing the death of a comrade in battle, trying to save a wounded comrade, killing someone during combat, or witnessing the death of others in war. It is important to understand that PTSD can happen to anyone and at any age. It is not a sign of weakness or something to shame or to be ashamed of. Many soldiers, no matter how strong they are, are not mentally prepared for killing someone in battle. According to the National Center for PTSD:

The number of Veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11–20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11–20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD. At the time of the most recent study, in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), it is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

Symptoms of PTSD

Intrusive Memories:

Is having recurrent and unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. This can mean experiencing flashbacks and negative feelings and emotions when something reminds you of the trauma that you experienced.

Mood Swings:

  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Feeling detached from family and friends
  • Lack of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Hopelessness about the future

Avoidance

Symptoms of avoidance may include:

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

Hyperarousal

  • You may have a hard time sleeping
  • You may have trouble concentrating
  • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise
  • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room

PTSD and the Military

Some people cope with their PTSD in different ways. Some cope with it by drinking heavily, using drugs, or becoming addicted to other harmful substances. It is very common for Veterans suffering from PTSD to also suffer from SUD (Substance Use Disorder). This is called a co-occuring disorder. More than 2 out of 10 Veterans suffer from both PTSD and SUD. It is important to treat the two disorders simultaneously because PTSD can actually heighten withdrawal symptoms during treatment. Vice versa, withdrawal symptoms can also worsen PTSD.

Finding a facility and program that is specifically tailored and designed for Veterans suffering from both PTSD and SUD (co-occuring disorders) is crucial to having a successful recovery. Veterans suffering from PTSD symptoms for more than a few weeks to a month should seek professional medical advice. Veterans suffering from PTSD have high chances of self medicating by using alcohol, pills, and other drugs.


If you or a loved one is struggling with chemical dependency and are ready for help, call Ridgeview Ranch today to speak with one of our Addiction Specialists at (877) 526–7706 for a free consultation. For additional information regarding our detox, outpatient and inpatient (30, 60, & 90 day) treatment programs, please visit www.ridgeviewranch.com. We accept most major PPO insurances and we also offer financing programs to fit your needs. We are also now in network with Beacon Health Options, formerly Value Options.

Good News! We are proud to announce that Ridgeview Ranch is now an approved Veterans Administration (VA) Provider with TriWest Healthcare Alliance, providing rehab treatment for Veterans who have been approved for the VA Choice and VAPC3 Programs. For details regarding our Veteran rehab treatment programs and how to qualify, visit: https://ridgeviewranchca.org/veterans/ or call (877) 526–7706. We are here to help you!

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