PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Getting Effective Treatment for Trauma and Alcohol Abuse

If you or someone you love suffers from PTSD and has issues with alcohol, we understand that it can seem impossible to break the cycles or get relief from traumatic memories without booze.

But you are not alone, and others have found a path to recovery at Changes Healing Center.

People who have lived through traumatic events often struggle with other issues that compound their experience, including alcohol misuse. There is a clear link between PTSD and alcohol abuse that can have significant impacts, and a treatment program that understands them is essential.

This is because PTSD and alcohol abuse often feed into each other: PTSD makes it more likely that someone will cope by drinking while drinking makes it more likely they will experience trauma. Unfortunately, drinking can exacerbate symptoms of PTSD which triggers more intense cravings.

Keep reading to learn more about how PTSD and alcohol are related and what you can do to minimize their effects, as well as how Changes Healing Center offers Joint Commission-accredited dual diagnosis treatment programs to support full and lasting sobriety and trauma recovery!

The Relationship Between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder

The interrelated nature of PTSD and alcohol abuse is complex and deserves some more attention. The answer as to which comes first may not be as straightforward as you think. A traumatic event can trigger alcohol use, but alcohol use can also trigger trauma. It isn’t as clear-cut as many would like to believe.

How does drinking influence traumatic events and vice versa?

Using Drinking to Alleviate PTSD Symptoms

For many people, the PTSD symptoms they experience are difficult to handle. They are seeking some type of relief from endless symptoms. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that roughly one-third of those who have had traumatic events also have drinking problems. Why is this figure so high?

PTSD symptoms can be difficult to manage, interfering with your relationships, sleep, work, and home life. Trauma colors almost all parts of your life and makes it hard for you to focus on healing. In place of choosing healthier coping mechanisms, many people develop substance use disorder to cope.

Drinking can provide temporary relief, but it ultimately does nothing to resolve the symptoms that are plaguing you night and day.

Relationship Between PTSD and Alcohol Use Disorder

And a Greater Risk of PTSD to Occur with Regular Drinking

Some people develop PTSD and then start drinking to manage symptoms. On the flip side of that coin, some people will develop alcohol use disorders followed by trauma. Drinking can put you in dangerous situations and make your relationships more precarious.

As a result, it’s more common for people to experience the type of trauma that leads to PTSD while drinking.

This is problematic for those who already have some history of trauma in their background. Further experiences will compound the PTSD symptoms and make you more likely to turn to substance abuse as your symptoms worsen. It’s an endless cycle that leaves you feeling exhausted and requires you to seek professional help.

How do PTSD Symptoms Lead to Alcohol Use Disorders?

With the connection between PTSD and alcohol outlined, it’s important to consider how symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder might lead to drinking problems. Here is what you need to know about the interplay of symptoms between the two conditions.

Alleviates PTSD Symptoms Temporarily

The main reason people who have lived through traumatic events will start drinking is because it can alleviate symptoms, albeit temporarily. Alcohol consumption enables you to numb the feelings that make you feel uncomfortable or bring up significant emotional distress.

For a little while, you can forget about what happened to you.

However, this leads to other problems that can complicate your healing from PTSD.

Until Regular Alcohol Use Worsens the Effects of PTSD

Depression - Effects of PTSD

It’s important to note the effect of alcohol use on those who struggle with PTSD. You might find that your drinking can lead to a worsening of symptoms, underscoring the critical connection between PTSD and alcohol use.

Symptoms that worsen with alcohol exposure can include:

  • Increased isolation
  • Numbness and lack of feeling
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Issues with sleep

If you’re already struggling with some of the above symptoms due to sexual abuse, childhood trauma, or other events in your past, they are likely to worsen with alcohol addiction.

Keep in mind that an alcohol use disorder (AUD) also comes with its own set of symptoms. PTSD and alcohol use feed into one another in an endless cycle that can be difficult to stop without professional help from a facility that specializes in this such as Changes Healing Center.

24 Hour Drug Detox And Rehab Helpline.

Self Medication Causes Increased Cravings for Alcohol

Alcohol misuse becomes associated with painful memories. When they surface, your body is likely to crave more alcohol because it has learned to cope with your symptoms this way. Triggers of traumatic memories spur the brain to release chemicals that make you crave alcohol use.

In the same study, it was discovered that other stimuli not associated with PTSD don’t trigger alcohol cravings the same way.

Drinkin Can Extend the Lifespan of PTSD Symptoms

For many people, alcohol use is a way for them to avoid coping with their PTSD symptoms. Whether they are engaged in binge drinking or just a few glasses of wine each night, alcohol use disorder can extend the lifespan of your mental health issues.

You can’t focus on your PTSD treatment until you’re getting your alcohol misuse under control, and this is why effective dual diagnosis treatment approaches are needed.

As alcohol worsens co-occurring disorders like PTSD, you can avoid the uncomfortable emotions that are begging to be dealt with. Instead of processing what you’ve been through, alcohol makes it easier to go for long periods without having to deal with your triggers and trauma.

Instead, you need to process it in a safe environment like that offered at Changes Healing Center.

Our Levels of Treatment for PTSD and Alcohol Abuse

Inpatient Treatment for Intensive Care

Trauma survivors need to get help for their mental health condition alongside help for their alcohol use. It would be impossible to treat one without the other. Changes Healing Center can help. We offer you the safe environment you need to learn how to live without alcohol at a variety of levels.

Inpatient Treatment for Intensive Care

Our inpatient treatment program for substance abuse enables you to stay with us for thirty to ninety days. We are a soft place to land, allowing you to rest easy knowing that turning to alcohol isn’t an option. You will have access to 24/7 medical staff and counselors to help you with PTSD and alcohol use.

We can also help with medication-assisted treatment. This enables us to treat the symptoms of your PTSD such as depression and anxiety. In turn, this gives you more space to process what you have been through and to remain more comfortable as you heal.

Medication can be important in conjunction with trauma-focused therapy and alcohol treatment for hazardous drinking.

Partial Hospitalization as a Step-Down

Partial Hospitalization - Treatment for PTSD and Alcohol Use

When you’re ready, you can transition to partial hospitalization (PHP). This allows you to spend your days in our comfortable treatment center and return home to sleep in your own bed at night. You get access to all of the same services during the day that you would have in residential including:

  • Medication-assisted therapy
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Complementary therapies

PHP allows you to have a safe space during the day while you practice implementing coping skills for shorter periods at night.

Intensive Outpatient for More Flexibility Alongside Accountability

Finally, you can transition to intensive outpatient (IOP) where you spend several hours each week in our care. Between appointments, you’re free to come and go. This allows you to return to responsibilities like work and family obligations around your treatment.

24 Hour Drug Detox And Rehab Helpline.

Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment Support at Changes Today

When you’re concerned about alcohol dependence and its influence on post-traumatic stress disorder, you need comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment. Changes Healing Center specializes in helping those with mental health concerns who also abuse alcohol.

Allow us to welcome you into our PTSD treatment program and get sober all in one fell swoop.

It only takes a few minutes to verify your insurance benefits in a confidential phone call. If you think it may be time to pursue treatment, allow us to come alongside you. Our enrollment team is ready and waiting to welcome you into our treatment facility!



  1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2007, January 1). PTSD and Problems with Alcohol Use.
  2. Smith, N. D. L., & Cottler, L. B. (2018). The Epidemiology of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol research : current reviews, 39(2), 113–120.

Why Changes Healing Center?

The mission of the CHC family is to assist in any way possible our client’s desire to achieve and maintain a life of long-term sobriety.

We are a licensed drug rehab in Phoenix, AZ, with substance abuse and Arizona alcohol rehab programs.

Our Programs serve Maricopa County and the surrounding cities and regions with evidence-based behavioral healthcare provided by individuals passionate about recovery.

We are JCAHO accredited for addiction treatment by the Joint Commission and strive to continuously improve our offerings and make treatment more accessible for all in need.

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Changes Healing Center

29 W Thomas Rd # 205

Phoenix, AZ 85013


(602) 691-7244

The information on this website should not be taken as medical advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a doctor-patient relationship. © 2023 All Rights Reserved.