New Study Examines Risk Factors for PTSD and Alcohol Misuse

People who suffer from PTSD often choose a strategy of avoidance coping (AVC) in order to manage their symptoms. This technique is also found in people who struggle with alcohol use disorders (AUD). “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use (SUDs) commonly co-occur, with rates of PTSD ranging from 28% to 55% in individuals seeking treatment for alcohol or drug use,” said a team of researchers who collaborated on a study to determine if AVC presents a risk factor for both of these issues. Bryce Hruska from Kent State University, William Fallon and Eileen Spoonster from Summa Health System, Eve M. Sledjeski from Rowan University and Douglas L. Delahanty from Kent State University and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine believe that psychological distress plays a major role in the comorbidity of the two problems and people use AVC to address that stress. They said, “Researchers have hypothesized that individuals with PTSD use substances such as alcohol to self-medicate or relieve psychological distress resulting from their trauma symptoms.”

The team recruited 356 individuals who had been involved in a motor vehicle accident (MVA). Each person was assessed during their initial hospital stay, and again six weeks and six months after the accident. The research revealed consistent findings at each assessment. “Specifically, the relationship between AVC and PTSS was found to be greater for those with a history of alcohol abuse or dependence – relative to those without the history – in a sample of recent MVA victims,” said the researchers. The team pointed out the significance of their findings and how this study may help people who already have AUD. “Early assessment of AUD history and avoidance coping may aid in detecting those at elevated risk for PTSD, and intervening to reduce AVC soon after trauma may help buffer the development of PTSD and AUD comorbidity.”

Hruska, B., Fallon, W., Spoonster, E., Sledjeski, E. M., & Delahanty, D. L. (2011, March 28). Alcohol Use Disorder History Moderates the Relationship Between Avoidance Coping and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022439

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • viki


    August 16th, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    the medical community really needs to tell the patients about how important mental health is.I have wondered about this many times-while someone is recovering they always talk about what diet to follow,how much mobility is allowed and everything.but they hardly if ever talk about mental health,avoiding stress, and so on.

  • Jerry


    August 17th, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    This is interesting that there is this kind of correlation between these two things that would seemingly have nothing in common.

  • WS


    August 17th, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    any person would want to drown sorrows and bad memories.and the most common method to do that?alcohol! while it may seem to be a no-brainer as to how harmful alcoholism could be,it just becomes so much more difficult when you are in trouble and are ready to do anything to get over it…or so you think!

  • Cornelia


    August 17th, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    Curious. . . so do you think that they have these alcohol abuse issues to cover up the PTSD, or to try to find a way to manage or deal with it?

  • N Dawson

    N Dawson

    August 17th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    So does PTSD drive folks to substance abuse or does substance abuse eventually result in PTSD? This answer would go a long way in the treatment of individuals that are affected by both, I am sure.

  • pete


    August 18th, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    alcohol has a million drawbacks and has been proven to be harmful time and again.but there is no reduction in it’s consumption,or the number of people who are addicted.this inspire of all the programs by government and non-government agencies.

    so why is that?because alcohol can get addictive.but why care?the taxes are coming in,people’s health be damned!

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