The Relation of Ptsd Symptoms to Substance Abuse

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The purpose of this research paper is to analyze on the relations between stress and substance abuse in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how it links to alcohol and substance use. There are multiple symptoms of PTSD that cause negative habits among the patients, alcohol and substances use are one of the most common behaviors, where they can be temporarily relived from the stress that’s caused by the disorder. This research paper will emphasize on how the symptoms of PTSD negatively affect the livelihood of those patients, and their selections on substances which includes alcohol, cigarettes, and numerous choice of drugs. The central method that have been used to see how substance abuse are affected by the symptoms of PTSD is by organizing the several results of clinical interviews and self-report questionnaires on people with PTSD, and compare the results between substance of abuse and symptom cluster scores. For example, using the results of the report according to a research PTSD symptom presentation among people with alcohol and drug use disorders: Comparisons by substance of abuse (Dworkin, 2018). This is a significant research because there are PTSD patients who also struggle from the addictions of substances and it is important to show the patients and their psychiatrists or therapists that PTSD are commonly co-occurred, and they should be treated accordingly if needed. Furthermore, it is essential for this proposal to prove that PTSD and substance abuse are related for people who are suffering from both so that they could treat both problems correspondingly for achieving a better result.

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The main purpose of this research is to bring awareness and inform people with PTSD about how their stress could lead to substance abuse and the associations between them. After reading this result, if a patient or a psychiatrist or therapist could acknowledge how PTSD and substance abuse are connected, and believe the treatment programs of substance abuse should be better incorporated the treatment programs of PTSD, they should change the way they are being treated or the way to treat their patients. It is important to help people who are heavily on drugs or alcohol because none of those substances can help with their stress, and they need to get out of that cycle in order to function their life back to normal. While the PTSD patients are being treated for their mental disorder, it would be a great significance if the problem of substance abuse could be treated along with it.

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental disorder that developed in people who experienced or went through a trauma or a horrified event, serious conditions could be developed afterwards. People with PTSD could have long-lasting symptoms such as intrusive memories, intense fear, avoidance, mood and thoughts that changed negatively, and even suicidal thoughts. Substance abuse is highly co-occurring with various of drugs especially with nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol. With evidence proven to show that these drugs have a desirable outcome in aiding the ability to learn, recall memory and ease anxiety, it is safe to say that these drugs must be taken into consideration in the treatment of PTSD. We will examine the effects that these drugs have on learning and stress, and how fear conditioning is used to alleviate these effects since PTSD is often associated with a substance use disorder that is linked to the use of one or more of these drugs.

In the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2011), almost half (46.6%) of individuals meeting criteria for lifetime PTSD had a comorbid substance use disorder (SUD). Additional studies have found that comorbidity rates for PTSD and SUD range between 25%–55% across various clinical popu- lations (Brown & Ryan, 2004; Brown, Read, & Kahler, 2003; Kessler, Sonnega, Bromet, Hughes, & Nelson, 1995; Pietrzak, Goldstein, Southwick, & Grant, 2011). The population of smokers in PTSD patients are higher compare to the population of other smokers. Stress and fear conditionings are sensitive to nicotine exposure in patients with PTSD. Cocaine abuse is potentially high as with nicotine among those patients. Also, alcohol has a high interaction with stress-related disorders including PTSD (Tipps, Raybuck, Lattal, 2013).



Participants included 463 that were hired under the Mechanical Tuck of Amazon who were 18 years old or above. Those who completed this participation received $1.25 as their compensation. They had to be those who was living in North America with knowledge of English that they could use when working, and had been tested by the Primary Care PTSD for DSM-5. Potential participants were excluded if they tried to answer the questions more than one time, if they had some data missing, or they did not went through a test for diagnosing PTSD.


Difficulties in emotion regulation scale-positive (DERS-P) is a self-report that was used to measure how difficult it was for participants to engage in positive emotions. The higher the score, the more difficulties they were having when regulating their emotions. Alcohol use and disorders identification test alcohol consumption questions (AUDIT-C) and the drug abuse screening test (DAST) were used to measure the frequency of substance use among the participants. The higher the score, the greater in substance use. For example, if a participant scores 3 or higher in the self-report of DAST, then he or she is considered as a problematic drug user.


People with PTSD were at first gathered by the Mechanical Turk of Amazon, and they were the employees of this company. They were asked if they live in North America, if they speak and write fluent working knowledge of English, and if they had ever been screened with Criterion A question of the PTSD’s Primary Care for DSM-5. Those who met all the criteria were given informed consent and they were compensated $1.25 for participating and finishing the survey on Qualtrics. Within the survey, demographic information is included such as gender, race, income, and relationship statues, as well as their educational level. Every participant can only do the survey for once, and they were asked to answer all the questions in order to make their surveys efficient. All surveys were completed online; there were no face to face interviews. The entire study and procedure were approved by the Institutional Review Board at a U.S. university.


Excluded a few ones who did not qualified for the survey, 463 people who completed the survey were considered as valuable participants. 20.2% of the participants reported with alcohol abuse problem and 13.3% of the participants reported with drug abuse problem, and all of these people are the ones who contained a potential diagnosis of PTSD. Furthermore, 16.7% of the participants reported with heavy alcohol abuse that was affected by their potential PTSD as a comorbid, and 10.2% of the participants were reported with drug abuse that was affected by their potential PTSD as a comorbid. Based on all the tests and surveys combined, the severity of PTSD symptoms was proved to be associated with trouble controlling their positive moods. By having trouble to control their emotions positively (which affected by PTSD), it was also proven that PTSD made a huge impact on alcohol and drug use. In this case, the symptoms of PTSD are related to substance abuse, and they often happen accordingly.


The purpose of this study was to find how the symptoms of PTSD and substance abuse are associated as patients who diagnosed with PTSD are often reported with problematic substance use. We predicted that patients with PTSD had been having trouble with regulating their positive emotions which increased their chances of substance abuse. Because it’s very common for people to avoid situations where they cannot control their emotions. Therefore, alcohol and drug work as a numbing cream for them. We also made a presumption that substance abuse happens as a co-occurring disorder frequently with PTSD. In this study, those who are diagnosed with potential PTSD had higher percentages of alcohol and drug abuse compared to those who do not have PTSD. Thus, the task strongly supported the hypothesis. In the finding of this study, we discovered that probable PTSD patients have higher percentage of problematic substance use such as alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine.

However, the percentages of those people who were both suffering from PTSD and substance abuse were lower than our prediction. Although the symptoms of PTSD were still proven to be associated with substance abuse; it was still surprisingly lower than expected. Some participants with probable PTSD who were not affected to be abusive in substance use possibly had found other ways to vent when they cannot regulate positive emotions because of the symptoms of PTSD. In order for this study to be more persuasive, future and further research should be conducted with more people, clinical examinations, and details. Another problem with this study is that it is measured by self-reports only which the accuracy can be affected by one’s own thoughts and ideas. Investigations on the dysregulation of emotions should be attached in future study in order for it to be more reliable and trustworthy. Hence, related or similar researches will be more persuasive.

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