PTSD & Alcohol Addiction | Overview, Symptoms, & Treatment

About one in three PTSD patients develop alcohol use disorder during their lifetime. Dual diagnosis treatment options such as psychotherapy and medication can help patients with this type of co-occurring disorder.

Co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder, also known as AUD or alcohol addiction, can cause worsening mental health, isolation from family and friends, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and other health problems.

About one-third of PTSD patients may also struggle with an AUD during their lifetime. Heavy drinking can be a coping mechanism to reduce PTSD symptoms in the short-term. However, the effects of alcohol consumption can make your health worse over time, not better.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction and PTSD, you can benefit from professional help. Specialized dual diagnosis treatment programs can help you recover from both problem drinking and PTSD at the same time.

Symptoms Of Co-Occurring PTSD & Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

About 30 to 60 percent of patients getting treatment for PTSD may also meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder.

PTSD is defined by severe mental distress after witnessing a traumatic event. AUD is defined by long-term alcohol use, even if drinking is hurting your health or personal ife.

Symptoms of PTSD and AUD may include:

  • experiencing flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • changes in mood, such as irritability and high temper
  • blocking out memories of the traumatic event
  • isolating yourself from friends and family
  • drinking alcohol to self-medicate PTSD symptoms
  • being unable to stop drinking alcohol
  • finding yourself in high-risk situations, such as driving or unsafe sex, due to drinking alcohol
  • experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, insomnia, and psychosis, when you try to quit drinking

Risk Factors For Comorbid PTSD & AUD

If you have PTSD, your risk of developing an AUD is significantly higher than the general population. Those with PTSD may turn to alcohol to self-medicate their PTSD symptoms or manage their mental distress in the short term.

Alcohol addiction is also a risk factor for developing PTSD. Heavy alcohol misuse can lead to an increased risk of traumatic experiences, such as car accidents or sexual assault.

Other risk factors for the development of PTSD and AUD may include:

  • a family history of alcohol abuse
  • a history of traumatic experiences, such as serving in a war, experiencing natural disasters, or being a victim of violence
  • a family history of mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or anxiety disorders

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For PTSD & Alcohol Use Disorder

Dual diagnosis treatment programs treat both PTSD and AUD at the same time. Dual diagnosis treatment focuses on your mental health while treating physical symptoms of PTSD and AUD, such as cravings, weight loss, and mood swings.


PTSD and AUD are both mental health conditions. Understanding and treating your mental health through psychotherapy can help reduce your PTSD symptoms and drinking problems.

Exposure therapy can help PTSD patients revisit and process the traumatic events that led to PTSD. This form of therapy can help patients understand and cope with their trauma in a healthy way.

Seeking Safety can help patients with PTSD improve without the risk of flashbacks or triggers. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help PTSD and AUD patients learn about and change their way of thinking. Some or all of these psychotherapy options can be used to treat co-occurring PTSD and AUD.


When taken as directed, medication is an effective treatment option for co-occurring disorders. Approved medications such as acamprosate can manage your alcohol withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Medication for AUD can be prescribed by accredited Ohio treatment centers.

Some antidepressants can also be prescribed to treat PTSD. You can talk to your treatment provider to find out the medication approach that works for you.

Other Treatment Options

Other treatment options for co-occurring PTSD and AUD may include:

  • attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
  • 12-step recovery programs
  • telehealth services
  • recovery housing support

The treatment options that work for you may depend on your specific needs.

Find Treatment In Ohio

Co-occurring PTSD and alcohol abuse can hurt your relationships, health, and performance at school or work. Alcohol is habit-forming, which can make quitting on your own difficult. If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring disorders in Ohio, help is available.

At our Mental health and substance use disorder treatment center, we offer alcohol detox programs, mental health services, aftercare planning, and other options to improve your long-term recovery outlook.

To learn more about our mental health and alcohol addiction treatment options, please contact Ohio Recovery Center today.

  1. Alcohol Research
  2. Alcohol Research
  3. National Institute of Mental Health
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

Published on: July 28, 2023

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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