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Drinking has been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms

Harold Mandel's picture
A young woman drinking  beer

College students often drink a lot of alcohol and this has been associated with serious health hazards. The students often use alcohol as a way of coping with stress. The alcohol itself is often associated with increased symptoms of stress and other health problems.

Associations between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and alcohol consumption have been observed in college students by researchers, reports the Journal of Abnormal Psychology via the National Institutes of Health. Associations going both ways between post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and alcohol use have been theorized, but were never before tested empirically. In this study, these associations were studied in college students over a 3 year period.

The researchers observed evidence of prospective associations from alcohol consumption to post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms over the 3-year assessment period. They also observed prospective associations from post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms to alcohol involvement over time. It has been suggested by these results that post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and alcohol involvement each predict the other.

It's natural to feel afraid when you are in danger. This natural fear sets off many instantaneous changes in the body to prepare to defend itself against the danger or to avoid it. The is a “fight-or-flight” response which is a healthy reaction which is meant to protect a person from harm. However, in post-traumatic stress disorder, this reaction is changed or it is damaged. People who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not any longer in danger, reports the National Institute of Mental Health.

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This research raises concerns about the troubling association between drinking alcohol and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in college students, reports the University of Buffalo in a discussion of this study. Among the estimated 9 percent of college students who have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, more students are likely to drink more alcohol than peers without this condition. Furthermore, heavy alcohol consumption has been found to exacerbate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms over time, which prolongs a vicious cycle.

Jennifer P. Read, PhD, who is an associate professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo and principle investigator on the study, has said, “College is a time of important developmental changes and a period of risk for heavy drinking, trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress symptoms.” It has been observed that there is a lot of heavy drinking on college campuses which is associated with risk for sexual assault, interpersonal violence and serious injury. All of this may set off post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is now known that alcohol use and associated problems are associated over time to an exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. And, the symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder show a similar effect on alcohol consumption. They each affect the other, and so both post-traumatic stress disorder and heavy drinking are risk factors for one another. This information should be helpful for those who assist students in dealing with these problems.

It has been my direct observation that drinking alcohol really is unusually heavy on college campuses. This can clearly impair a student's ability to do well in college while increasing the chances of sexual assault and other forms of assault and car crashes, among other health problems. There is a powerful psychological resistance to staying away from alcohol at this time and other times in one's life due to the euphoric addictive properties of alcohol.

With marijuana also highly prevalent on college campuses arguments that smoking dope is no more dangerous than alcohol and therefore should also be legalized, does not help the problem. Students and others are often thrilled that the trend is in the direction of offering them more substances to stay stoned with instead of less. Whether legal or not, all of this is simply not healthy and this is what should be taught more to students and others. In fact zero tolerance for drinking and driving is best, as I have reported upon in a separate article for EmaxHealth.