The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs reports that one in five combat veterans develops Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, either during or shortly after combat. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as having three main categories of symptoms: “re-experiencing symptoms,” “avoidance symptoms,” and “hyperarousal symptoms”. These categories can be simplified to describe symptoms of flashbacks and nightmares, feeling of guilt and depression, and insomnia, respectively.

Both re-experiencing symptoms and avoidance symptoms can significantly contribute to a soldier’s development of substance abuse—particularly substance abuse. Alcohol is more widely accessible and acceptable, thus making it easier than non-prescription drugs for veterans to use to nullify their PTSD symptoms.

According to, rates of alcoholism are higher among military personnel than civilians. In fact, “almost half of all active duty service members (47%) reported binge drinking in 2008,” and some of those members admitted to binge-drinking every week.

There has been serious debate as to whether or not alcoholism has a genetic link. A section of the New York Times contributed by the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission argues extensively that there is significant (although “complex”) evidence that suggests that genetics play a massive factor as to if a person will develop alcoholism.

An article called, “Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse” scientifically and anatomically explains how prolonged alcohol exposure can greatly alter different elements in DNA and the brain. “Research suggests that alcohol dependence, and other substance addictions, may be associated with genetic variations in 51 different chromosomal regions”. Additionally, the article restates how (in more technical terms) abusive and addictive personalities work. In short, the amygdala, a small region embedded in the brain, is responsible for emotions, cravings, memory, and decision-making. According to the AAHC, overexposure to alcohol impairs the amygdala’s prime functions in all of these aspects, which explains an alcoholic’s irrational behavior and emotions. Plus, this impairment disallows affected individuals from knowing when to stop drinking, which quickly leads to binge drinking and even alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol in general also numbs the brain’s ability to process logic and reasoning—a fact that is widely recognized. However, “alcohol [also] has widespread effects on the brain and can affect neurons (nerve cells), brain chemistry, and blood flow within the frontal lobes of the brain. Neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) are affected by long-term use of alcohol”. When a person does not ingest alcohol, certain “chemical responses” cause withdrawal symptoms that are very similar to those associated with drugs and drug withdrawal.

Alcoholism is not a condition to be taken lightly, and veterans who suspect themselves to be alcoholics should seriously consider seeking professional help, especially if veterans drink to cope with symptoms of PTSD. While any AA program will do in terms of treating non-PTSD related alcoholism, veterans who drink because of PTSD should seek additional help, but that sort of help should not be sought after at the VA. Instead, other organization’s and their programs prove more than adequate in treating such afflicted veterans.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life!

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.