PTSD and Addiction in Veterans

The month of May is Military Appreciation and Mental health Awareness Month. It is a great opportunity to show our gratitude for all of the incredibly brave and courageous Americans serving in the military. One of the ways Desert Hope Treatment Center in Las Vegas is showing its appreciation is by raising awareness and encouraging conversations on the unique mental health issues military members face, especially with PTSD.

Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Veterans

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD, is a debilitating mental disorder characterized by an exaggerated fear response that can develop after exposure to traumatic events.1 Active military members and veterans are one of the highest risk groups for PTSD and Addiction. The main causes of PTSD in the military are:

  • Training Accidents.
  • War Zone Deployment.
  • Military Sexual Trauma.

It is estimated that 23% of women reported being sexually assaulted during their time in the military. Furthermore, 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment during their time in the military.2 The Vietnam War, Gulf War (Desert Storm), and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have also led to a high amount of PTSD in the military, ranging from 11% to 30% of veterans. PTSD rates for women are higher than for men, whether they are in or out of the military.3

Signs of PTSD

Signs and symptoms of PTSD are commonly grouped into four categories and may include1:

  • Intrusive and persistent re-experiencing the trauma – nightmares, flashbacks, upsetting memories, and recurring dreams.
  • Persistent avoidance – Avoiding places, objects, people, and events that remind the individual of the trauma as to avoid triggering distressing throughs, feelings, memories, and physiological reactions.
  • Negative mood and cognition – guilt, hopelessness, self-blame, social withdrawal, memory loss regarding details of the traumatic event(s), and lack of positive emotions.
  • Pronounced alterations in reactivity and arousal – easily startles, irritable, angry, feeling “on edge” or “jumpy, sleeplessness, and inability to concentrate.

PTSD is often mistaken for depression, as the two share similar symptoms. Although it can be helpful to know the signs of PTSD, a diagnosis can only be made by a professional.

Substance Abuse and PTSD

Substance misuse and addiction are commonly connected to co-occurring disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Among people with PTSD, lifetime rates of co-occurring substance use disorders range between 36% to 52%. One explanation for this strong association between substance misuse and PTSD is that individuals suffering from PTSD attempt to “self-medicate” with substances to alleviate the negative symptoms of the mental disorder.

Signs of a substance abuse disorder include but are not limited to4:

  • Consuming drugs or alcohol in larger amounts than intended.
  • A strong desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control the drug or alcohol use.
  • Feelings of craving the drug or alcohol, including a strong urge or desire to use the substance.
  • Giving up important activities at work, home, and socially to misuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Failure to fulfill obligations at school, work, or home due to recurrent substance use.
  • Feelings of withdrawal when attempting to stop consuming the drug or alcohol.

Treatment at Desert Hope

Desert Hope Treatment is a drug rehab center near Las Vegas. Research has found that treating co-occurring PTSD and addiction together is more effective than treating each disorder separately or one after the other.1 With this research in mind, Desert Hope treats co-occurring disorders together in an integrated treatment approach using evidence-based addiction treatment therapies.

Our Veterans program is a unique drug and alcohol rehab program for veterans and first responders in Las Vegas, Nevada. It focuses on the unique challenges faced by many veterans including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Some of the topics addressed during the program include:

  • Military culture.
  • The impact of stress.
  • Pain management.
  • Grief & loss.
  • Post-traumatic responses.
  • Family & Relationships.
  • Relapse Prevention.

Members of this program also create a sense of community with other veterans facing similar struggles with substance misuse and mental health. If you or a loved one need help, reach out today and speak with one of our admissions navigators available by phone 24/7 and start your journey to recovery today.


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Desert Hope is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is easily accessible from most locations in the Southwest. We offer a full continuum of care that spans from inpatient medical detox and rehab to outpatient services and sober living. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Vegas or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.