Veterans, PTSD and Addiction

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Veterans PTSD and Addiction

In the United States, there are approximately 18 million veterans.¹ The percentage of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) varies based on service era, with 11-20% of those who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom dealing with this debilitating illness.² Veteran addiction treatment specialists know that of the veterans who have PTSD, more than 20% have a substance use disorder.³ For veterans with PTSD with a substance use disorder, turning to TriWest addiction treatment options can be the solution.

What Is PTSD in Combat Veterans?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health disorder that affects some people who have experienced traumatic events. Combat veterans face unique stressors that put them at risk of developing this condition, including:

  • Prolonged anticipatory anxiety
  • Sustained combat exposure
  • Unpredictable deployment length
  • Multiple deployments

These stressors can contribute to the development and worsening of PTSD. Service members can develop PTSD right after the traumatic event, or they may experience a delayed reaction, with symptoms appearing months after the event.

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but veteran addiction treatment specialists point to four main symptom clusters that people with PTSD can experience.

Intrusive Reminders of the Event

Intrusive reminders can include nightmares, flashbacks, and distressing thoughts related to the traumatic event. During these intrusive reminders, the veteran may feel like they are reliving the experience. This can lead to panic attacks, heart palpitations, and uncontrollable shaking.


Veterans can also experience the need to avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event. This can include people, places, activities, situations, or thoughts. It can lead to withdrawing from social events and isolation.

Negative Thoughts

Veterans may also have intrusive negative thoughts, including exaggerated negative beliefs about the world and themselves. It can also mean extreme feelings of shame, guilt, or fear. They may find it impossible to experience positive emotions.

Emotionally Reactive

A veteran with PTSD can also find themselves on guard at all times. This hypervigilance can lead to aggression, reckless behavior, sleeping difficulties, and trouble concentrating. Being emotionally reactive can impact a person’s relationships, occupational success, and sense of self-control. Fortunately, there is help available for all of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD and Addiction in Veterans

Veterans with PTSD are three times more likely to develop a substance use disorder.⁴ They may turn to drugs or alcohol to help manage their symptoms.

Drugs and alcohol can diminish negative thoughts for a while and can offer relief from hypervigilance and the anxiety that comes with it. Many drugs are depressants which slow down the central nervous system. Veterans can also experience chronic pain from injuries; substances like alcohol and drugs can promise temporary pain relief.

It all leads to a cycle of addiction that makes PTSD symptoms worse. Drugs and alcohol, for example,  can worsen the avoidance symptoms and lead to insomnia and other symptoms. 

Veteran Addiction Treatment: Getting Help

Veterans with PTSD who also have a substance use disorder should turn to experts for help. Rehab programs within the VA network are TriWest addiction treatment centers, and they can offer the essential help a veteran needs for PTSD and addiction.

There are some essential therapy options that the VA and TriWest addiction treatment specialists recommend for struggling veterans.

Prolonged Exposure

Prolonged exposure (PE) teaches veterans to gradually approach their trauma-related memories and feelings. It is an anxiety-provoking therapy that allows veterans to work through everything they feel as they relive the experience.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Cognitive processing therapy allows veterans to analyze and change their negative and intrusive thoughts. It makes it easier to process the event.

Group Therapy

Group therapy allows veterans to feel less isolated because of trauma and addiction. By being with people who have experienced similar trauma and are struggling with addiction, they can understand that they are not alone.

Medication and Psychotherapy

Using medications to help deal with withdrawal symptoms and PTSD symptoms can give veterans the mental space to work through the trauma effectively.

Silver Sands Recovery Accepts TriWest Insurance for Addiction Treatment

Silver Sands Recovery offers a variety of evidence-based treatments that veterans suffering from PTSD and addiction need. We offer both long- and short-term recovery options to help veterans get to the root of addiction and PTSD.

Silver Sands Recovery can offer:

  • Relapse prevention education
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Group and individual therapies
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • EMDR therapy
  • Gender-specific therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Dual-diagnosis treatment
  • Post-rehab care
  • Somatic experiencing
  • Sexual assault trauma therapy

Get Help Today

Reaching out for veteran addiction treatment is essential for veterans who struggle with addiction and PTSD. By turning to Silver Sands Recovery, you can get the specialized assistance you need.

Silver Sands Recovery has some of the most experienced therapists, and they can help you get to the root of the challenges you face. Don’t let another day pass without help. Contact the experts at Silver Sands Recovery right now to get the assistance you need.









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