Co-Occurring Disorders: What is the Connection Between PTSD and Addiction?

Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Mental health conditions and substance abuse often go hand-in-hand, and this is called having a co-occurring disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a common mental illness that affects a lot of people every year. In fact, according to the United States Veterans Association, about 8% of the population will suffer from it at some point in their lives.

People who suffer from PTSD may not completely understand what they are experiencing. They may have unusual, daunting symptoms that they struggle to control. This explains why so many people with this condition gravitate toward using drugs and alcohol. Not only are they ways of escape, but they provide relief for their symptoms; at least temporarily.

Unfortunately, sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder can go undiagnosed for years. We want to help people understand PTSD, why it can lead to substance abuse and how to get help to recover.

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The Scope of Co-Occurring Disorders in the United States

Most people with drug and alcohol addictions also have mental health issues, or co-occurring disorders. Many of them may not realize it, but they are self-medicating their symptoms, which should be treated professionally.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than half of those who go to rehab have co-occurring disorders. Some of the statistics they share include:

  • 7.7 million people have co-occurring substance abuse and mental health conditions.
  • Th