Could Substance Abuse be Causing PTSD?

It is a well known fact that those that suffer from PTSD are at a much higher risk for falling into substance abuse. Many people with PTSD often find themselves going for the bottle or something else harmful to help quickly find relief from their pain. But could early substance abuse actually lead to PTSD?


It turns out that there is a link between teens and young adults that abuse substances and later develop PTSD. So why is this?


The brains of teens and young adults are still developing, which is why alcohol and other substances are so dangerous for them. In the moment, downing a few shots might seem like a quick and easy solution for a teenager that is under a lot of stress. This is because they lack the ability to make rational and well-informed decisions, and instead act in the moment based on what seems the most rewarding.


But turning to unhealthy solutions can have a lot of consequences later on down the road. Alcohol and other drugs can have a negative effect on a brain that is still developing. It can inhibit growth, preventing the young person from ever being able to learn how to make better decisions or cope with things in a healthy way.


Facing the stresses of everyday life is enough for one person to have to deal with. But it’s even harder when you don’t have the mental capabilities to figure out how exactly you should deal with them. For someone who abused substances as a teen or young adult, it’s even harder because their brains were never able to develop and grow like they were supposed to. Smaller stresses are much bigger for these people, making it easier for them to develop life-altering PTSD.


If you or someone you know is struggling with a stressful situation, know that it does get better, and substance abuse is NOT the way to go. This is especially true for teens and young adults who still have developing brains. Abusing alcohol and drugs will only make things worse. It won’t make the stressful situation go away, and it will leave lasting effects on not only your physical body but also your mind. Clear thinking is essential for maintaining good mental health, and you just can’t do that if your head is fogged by toxic substances. The more you use these substances, the more likely it is that they will leave permanent effects on your mind and body.


Long lasting effects of alcohol aren’t the only thing to worry about though. When people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, they are more likely to do things they will regret, or even put themselves in danger. Finding themselves in a bad situation because they decided to drink irresponsibly can be enough in itself to cause PTSD in someone.


Instead, consider practicing some healthier coping mechanisms, and maybe even start seeing a therapist. It could help you get through things, and even prevent you from developing PTSD later on down the road.

PTSD and Alcohol

When you have PTSD, anxiety and depression are your constant companions.  The pain of life altering trauma can stay with you, day in and day out, making it hard to function and live in a normal way.  Everyone in this situation can become desperate for some relief.  There are many healthy ways to help yourself cope with this disease.

Unfortunately, some are so desperate to end the pain, they turn to alcohol to self medicate and numb themselves. While, to some, this may feel like their only option, the reality is that alcohol doesn’t just not make things better – it actually makes things a lot worse.

Alcohol is a depressant, a downer. Rather than helping you recover from the PTSD, it can actually trigger more symptoms. Alcohol can increase the anger, irritability, depression, lashing out – some of the aspects of PTSD that cause trauma survivors to push away and lose many of their social supports right when they need them the most.

If you feel that you have become reliant on alcohol to mask your PTSD, there is still help!  Therapeutic and holistic approaches to alcohol recovery and PTSD treatment have great results. Some treatment options you may want to look into are:

  • Group counseling
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Meditation and yoga
  • Equine or other animal therapy
  • Art or music therapy

Of course, these are just supports that you can use to help you in your recovery.  Anyone suffering from PTSD, especially if they are also using alcohol, should be in regular therapy with a licensed counselor and may want to talk to a psychiatrist to see if there are medications that may be able to help. Don’t self medicate!  There is help out there for you!