Veterans’ Corner – June 2021 | Progress of Pontotoc


Studies show that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse problems are strongly linked among people who have served in the military. Some people try to cope with the symptoms of PTSD by drinking a lot, taking drugs, or smoking too much. Eventually, overuse of these substances can progress to SUD (Substance Use Disorder), and treatment can be given for both PTSD and SUD. The good news is that treatment works and therapy can target both problems at the same time.

How common is concomitant PTSD and SUD in Veterans?

More than 2 in 10 Veterans with PTSD also have SUD.

Almost one in three Veterans seeking treatment for SUD also suffers from PTSD.

The number of veterans who smoke (nicotine) is almost double for those with PTSD (about 6 in 10) compared to those without a diagnosis of PTSD (3 in 10).

In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about 1 in 10 returning veterans seen in VA had a problem with alcohol or other drugs.

War veterans with PTSD and alcohol problems tend to binge on alcohol. Binge drinking occurs when a person drinks a lot of alcohol (4 to 5 drinks or more) in a short period of time (1 to 2 hours).

PTSD can occur after a person has suffered a fight, physical or sexual assault, a terrorist attack, a serious accident or a natural disaster. Symptoms of PTSD include feeling overly excited, flashbacks of an event, avoiding reminders of the event, anger, irritability, or numbness at things you used to love.

What treatments are available for concomitant PTSD and SUD? Evidence shows that simultaneous treatment of PTSD and SUD can treat both conditions. Some people choose to have different therapies for PTSD and SUD at the same time.

• For PTSD, trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most effective treatments. Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure (PE), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) use different techniques to help people deal with their traumatic experiences.

• The most effective treatments for SUD include relapse prevention, cognitive behavioral therapy, 27% of VA care veterans diagnosed with PTSD also have SUD and emergency management. There are also drug options.

• COPE is a therapy that integrates the treatment of trauma-focused PTSD with the treatment of SUD.

• Treatment of specific symptoms such as pain, anger or sleeping problems is also an option.

What else do I need to know about the treatment? There are many levels and types of treatment options available. The first step is to speak with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health professional and request more information. There are effective treatments for concomitant PTSD and SUD. Recovery is achievable. You can have a life without your symptoms. Your VA provider can help you get started.

When should a person be assessed for concurrent PTSD and SUD? If you continue to be troubled or distracted by your experiences for more than three months, or if you have questions about your alcohol or drug use, educate yourself about the options. Life can be better! Speak to a VA professional to discuss the choices to get started.

VA wants you to have the best possible care for co-occurring PTSD and SUD. Each VA medical center has PTSD-SUD specialists trained to treat both conditions to promote the best health outcomes. If there are any signs that you are at risk for both PTSD and SUD, your provider will help you decide on the best treatment option for you. There are treatment resources in every VA medical center. If you qualify for VA health care, you can get high quality mental health services as part of your benefits.

The Mental Health Service at VA Medical Center (VAMC) Memphis offers consultation, assessment, and treatment for a variety of issues that can impact emotional well-being.

Mental health services provided at VAMC Memphis include treatment for –

depression, sadness, grief

anxiety, worry, nervousness

stress due to medical problems and / or pain

post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

emotional issues, such as anger management

bothersome thoughts or ideas

aggressive or self-destructive behavior

VAMC Memphis contact number (s): 901-523-8990 Ext. 5777 or 901-523-8990, ext. 7411

If you are already registered with VA Health Care and assigned to the Tupelo VA Clinic, they also provide the majority of mental health services offered at Memphis VAMC. All you have to do is speak with your assigned VA doctor and ask for an appointment to see one of the VA mental health providers. The Tupelo VA Health Clinic number is 662-840-6366.

When it comes to seeking help for PTSD and / or SUD, the most common problem I see in veterans is denial and pride. Many veterans suffer in silence and just get away with it – unfortunately this is the way we are trained. Take it from someone who knows, come see me and let us help you. What we discuss will be confidential – I am obligated to comply with the Privacy Act, 38 USC 5701, 7332, and 5705, and HIPAA privacy guidelines.

If you are not registered for VA Health Care and want to check if you are eligible, please call and we can discuss – Mack Huey, County Veterans Service Officer at 489-3907.

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