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Alcohol and Substance Abuse in PTSD - Topic Overview

Behavior change

My drinking or drug use has:

  • Made me more aggressive or mean.
  • 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 problems.
  • 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 a problem.

  • 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 to.
  • I have wanted to or tried several times to cut down on how much I use alcohol or drugs.
  • I spend a lot of time getting alcohol or drugs.
  • I need to drink more or use more drugs to get the same effect.
  • I am sick when I try to stop drinking or using drugs.

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:

  • "I just drink beer or wine."
  • "I don't use hard drugs."
  • "I'm not an alcoholic."
  • "I gave it up for 3 weeks last year."
  • "I don't drink every day."
  • "I've never missed a day of work."
  • "I'm not as bad as my friend."
  • "I can handle it."

If any of these statements are true, you may be developing or already have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

Getting help

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 doubts.

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 help.
  • 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.

For more information, see the topics Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: 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 information.
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