What is the prevalence of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018
  • Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Of particular importance is the common concurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol abuse. The activating symptoms of alcohol withdrawal aggravate the PTSD, which inevitably increases the risk of relapse. [33] A number of studies examined alcohol use in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. A survey conducted 9 months after the terrorist attack found a 17.5% increase in alcohol use when compared with consumption patterns in the month preceding the attack. The same study noted that PTSD declined during those 9 months, but alcohol use remained elevated. [34] Individuals glued to the television experienced higher rates of PTSD. Nationwide estimates of PTSD in the 2 months following 9/11 varied according to the television viewing time, ranging between 2.7-4.3%. [35]

Another study examined combat veterans of the first Gulf War. Six years after that brief war, a significant correlation still existed between alcohol use disorders and PTSD. [36] The co-occurring disorders of PTSD and alcohol abuse are expressed differently between the genders. Men are much more likely to experience irritability as they drink excessively. [37] Women with PTSD also abuse alcohol, but are more likely to suffer from vague physical complaints and depression. [38]

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