Taking alcohol or drugs to deal with
stressful emotions is called self-medication. This may make you feel better for
a while, but in the long run it will do more harm than good. Alcohol and drugs
can make it harder to enjoy life, and they can keep you from taking care of
your responsibilities. Using alcohol can even make your PTSD symptoms
Taking alcohol or drugs may lead to
substance abuse. This is when alcohol or drugs cause
problems in your life. Substance abuse may hurt your relationships with friends
and family members, and it may cause problems at work. It also may lead to
serious health problems.
If you use alcohol or drugs, you may
dependent. This means that you can't quit, or you have
withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit. Withdrawal may cause you to feel sick
or shaky. Also, when you become dependent, you may have to use more alcohol or
drugs to get the same effect.
Is alcohol or drug use a problem for me?
everyone with PTSD has a problem with drinking or using drugs, but having PTSD
makes it more likely that a problem will develop. You may not know if drinking
or drug use is a problem for you. It may happen very slowly so that you don't
notice it, or it may be part of another activity and isn't obvious. For
example, you may spend Saturdays watching football and drinking with your
friends. You may not see that the alcohol is more important to you than the
Drinking or using drugs is a problem if it causes your
behavior to change or changes how you use alcohol or drugs.
Take this test or reply to the statements below to see if you have a problem with
drugs or alcohol.
My drinking or drug use has:
Made me more aggressive or
Interfered with personal obligations, like taking care of my
family or working.
Put me in danger. For example, I have used drugs
or alcohol before driving or operating machinery.
Led to legal
Interfered with how well I do at work.
Using alcohol or drugs
Your reasons to drink or use drugs and how much you use them can indicate
My friends or family members have said something to me about
how often I drink or use drugs.
I sometimes feel guilty about
drinking or using drugs.
I drink or use drugs to cope with stress
or my problems.
I am drinking more or using more drugs than I used
I have wanted to or tried several times to cut down on how much I use alcohol or
I spend a lot of time getting alcohol or
I need to drink more or use more drugs to get the same
I am sick when I try to stop drinking or using
At times you may try to convince yourself that you don't
have a problem. This may keep you from getting the help you need. You may tell
yourself or others things like:
If any of these statements are true, you may be developing
or already have a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Admitting you need help is very hard.
It may be tough to seek help because you feel shame or guilt, or because you
have doubts about whether you can stop. Remember that many people have beaten
alcohol or drug problems, and all have started with these feelings and
If you feel you are drinking or using drugs because of
PTSD, be sure to tell the people who are helping you.
Talk to your doctor. Be honest about your use.
Your doctor can help you find counseling, group support, or another type of
Call an alcohol or drug treatment program. You
can get education and other kinds of therapy.
Talk to someone in your family or a close friend. Your loved ones can provide support
and help you find treatment.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Jessica Hamblen, PhD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Current as of
January 9, 2013
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 09, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this