Veteran Dual Diagnosis: PTSD and Addiction

United States war veterans have no doubt had their fair share of traumatic experiences. War is unkind and not very forgiving. As a result, vets are wrestling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There is no denying that combat has a negative impact on someone’s mental health, but it is also worth mentioning that this could spark a struggle with substance abuse. 

To treat a vet successfully, there’s a necessity for a unique kind of care. In the realm of addiction treatment, this is known as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis, in a nutshell, is when somebody suffers from a behavioral disorder and substance abuse. This means they have two separate illnesses.

Life post-war for a veteran is a unique dilemma. Not everybody can identify with everything a veteran has seen or experienced. This makes it difficult to understand the link between PTSD and addiction. However, understanding the connection between the two is imperative in treating those who suffer. 

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is when a person has experienced a great amount of anxiety after experiencing a traumatic event first-hand. Usually, the victim leaves these events feeling as though they have not been resolved. Often times, those who have seen combat have flashbacks to help cope or try and purge those unresolved feelings.

In addition to the anxiety and fear PTSD can bring to a victim, there are also aspects of the illness that display themselves in different forms. It is normal for those who struggle to feel like they’re paralyzed. Most often they want to withdraw and avoid any sort of social interaction. Not only that, but it’s also normal to lose sleep over it. 

If left untreated, PTSD can have a detrimental impact on those affected. Trauma can pile up over time, and if it’s ignored it will eventually flood over. This is why understanding the nature of the disease is so important to the health of the individual.

Symptoms of PTSD

Some symptoms of PTSD include the following:

  • Frequent, recurring nightmares of the same event
  • Drastic change in perspective over a particular event 
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperarousal 
  • Loss of interest or avoiding certain activities  

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is imperative that you seek help. PTSD has a large negative impact on those affected and can grow progressively worse if left untreated. 

What is Substance Abuse? The Occurrence of PTSD and Addiction in Veterans

Substance abuse is defined as the harmful or irresponsible use of drugs or alcohol in order to alter one’s own mood. However, it is worth noting that the spectrum of substance abuse is not limited to drugs or alcohol. 

The chemical signals that the brain receives are changed when somebody uses drugs. This has a large impact on how that person acts, feels, and thinks. Out of the entirety of the brain, the pleasure center is impacted the most, and this is detrimental to a person’s overall health and well-being.

Typically, the pleasure center is responsible for the feeling of love or passion, entertainment, and the enjoyment of food. When somebody experiences a high, dopamine rushes to their brain, triggering the pleasure center. 

The first high is always the strongest. This leaves the person depending on more every time they use. After a period of time, the longer somebody goes without doing a particular drug, the more intense their symptoms of withdrawal will become. Withdrawal gives way to dependency, and that’s when somebody becomes addicted. In short, their sobriety is compromised.

Sometimes outward factors play into drug or alcohol addiction. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Peer pressure

Substance abuse is an epidemic that is staining the very fabric of humanity. It has done its fair share of tearing homes apart and souring the lives of those affected; now it’s having a detrimental impact on those who’ve given their lives to serve the people of the United States. It is imperative to recognize the dangers of abuse and respond in a manner that is beneficial for all of those who are involved. 

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Symptoms of substance abuse include the following:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Lack of self-care/grooming
  • Lack of interest in quality time
  • Extreme secrecy

Dealing with substance abuse in day-to-day life is trying. Those who have served and are experiencing PTSD are at risk of abusing substances. It is imperative to look out for and recognize the symptoms so that, if you or a loved one are suffering, you get the help you need.

How PTSD and Addiction Connect

Often times, those who deal with PTSD respond to it in a number of ways. Those who have served in the military respond to their trauma in a way that is referred to as avoidance. Avoidance is what is referred to when somebody has had any sort of traumatic experience and tries to forget about the event entirely by way of distraction.

Avoidance can manifest itself in many forms, but the most common of these is substance abuse. Veterans suffering from PTSD may be trying very hard to avoid the vivid flashbacks or feelings of anxiety, so in efforts to do so, they use any sort of substance to numb their minds altogether. In fact, an alarming 27% of veterans that have been diagnosed with PTSD also suffer from substance abuse; that’s a little over a quarter of all vets who suffer.

It is imperative to understand the connection between PTSD and substance abuse so that the gravity of it all is handled with the utmost care. One out of every three vets who are seeking substance abuse treatment are suffering from PTSD. Thankfully, at Crest View, there are treatment options that can help vets suffering from both illnesses recover.

Treatment for Those Who Struggle 

It’s common that those suffering from an illness such as PTSD would try and self-medicate by means of abusing drugs and alcohol. Dual diagnosis treatment for PTSD and substance abuse has been proven effective in the recovery of these people, especially veterans. At Crest View, there are multiple resources to help those struggling with PTSD and substance abuse, the first of which is referred to as detox treatment.

Substance Abuse Detox Treatment 

Detox, if not practiced properly, could include the following symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations 
  • Seizures 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A complete cut-off from drugs or alcohol can lead to detrimental side-effects. These side-effects are known as the symptoms of withdrawal. Dependency on drugs and alcohol is very difficult to conquer and has the potential to do ill towards veterans who suffer from both PTSD and substance abuse. 

Medically assisted treatment (MAT) is an option that Crest View offers in order to help gradually wean a patient off of their dependency. This treatment method has proven itself successful in combating substance abuse and is imperative to treating it. If applicable, treating a substance abuse illness first is the proper way to cure PTSD.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient care is a treatment method that includes 24/7 access to medical personnel and allows patients to live in the care of a treatment center. Lasting anywhere from 28 days to six months, inpatient care is used to treat more serious cases of substance abuse. If you or your loved one is suffering from both PTSD and substance abuse, visit our trusted partner DreamLife Recovery for inpatient treatment needs. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a method of rehab that treats milder cases of substance abuse. This treatment allows patients to gain access to professional therapists and psychiatrists anywhere from 10-12 hours per week. Patients in this program can be sure to recover with minimal disruption to their normal lives. Outpatient treatment allows them to live in their own homes. This is extremely convenient for vets who need to stick around their homes in order to be there for themselves or their families.


Therapy helps veterans evaluate their traumatic past experience in a safe environment. Improving the way they cope with their trauma is significant to the recovery process. Therapy will ultimately help veterans cope with their destructive illness in ways that are healthier than any recovery method they would pursue through drugs or alcohol. 

Crest View Is There for You

At  Crest View, our ultimate goal is to give our utmost efforts to help vets struggling with substance abuse and PTSD recover to a place of stability. The treatment we offer here will help them combat their mental illness and dangerously self-diagnosed coping methods. With the support of our family, they’ll learn how to properly and more healthily fight their illness and receive the best treatment to help them through their recovery journey.

At treatment centers, the needs of veterans and other patients who struggle with PTSD and addiction are consistently at the forefront. Our desire is to make sure that they are equipped with all of the necessary tools in order to battle their illnesses. 

Veterans have given their lives for the good of those they fought for, and they deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but they can’t do that if they’re not healthy. Our aim for our patients and their loved ones never feel isolated, and that we do everything in our power to make sure they’re treated properly.

The worst part about recovery is weighing out your options. With Crest View, you can look no further. Treatment received here will enable victims to move on from their trauma and pursue a life of peace and stability. We implore you to take steps towards a more stable way of living today. If you or a loved one are fighting PTSD and substance abuse, feel free to contact us here, or call us at (866) 327-2505.