After a trauma, people can turn to alcohol or drugs to manage the distress they feel. Alcohol and drugs may help with painful emotions and memories in the short term, but they get in the way of recovery.


When alcohol and other drug use can be problematic

When used in moderation (i.e., no more than two standard drinks), drinking alcohol is an acceptable, social and enjoyable part of life for many people. Moderate alcohol use means drinking no more than two standard drinks a day, and no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion, with regular alcohol free days.


Some people who have experienced a traumatic event turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with emotions and situations they find hard to manage. In the short term, relying on alcohol or drugs can seem like a solution to painful trauma memories or feelings of anxiety or depression. In the longer term, alcohol and drug use gets in the way of recovery and can result in a range of harms.


Overusing alcohol and using non-prescribed drugs can worsen a person’s physical health, increase the risk of injury, affect sleep and mood, and worsen any existing mental health problems. Excessive alcohol and drug use can also seriously affect a person’s relationships with family and friends, and their ability to perform at work and function from day to day.


Alcohol, drugs and medication

The use of alcohol and other drugs can also interact with medications, particularly medications prescribed for anxiety, depression or PTSD. If you are taking medication, it is wise to consult a health professional about your alcohol consumption or drug use, particularly if you have a mental health condition. During treatment for PTSD, it may be necessary to abstain temporarily or permanently from drinking alcohol and using non-prescribed drugs.