Substance Abuse in Military Veterans

Many individuals who currently serve or have previously served in the military struggle with addiction. In fact, substance abuse is a significant health problem among our nation’s veterans. It is common for those who served in the military to come back from deployment with mental and/or physical health problems, which could be directly linked to addiction.


How Substance Abuse & PTSD Are Linked

Going into combat can take a large physical, mental, and emotional toll on a person. First, individuals who go into battle may witness terrible things that they won’t be able to forget. These experiences may result in a variety of mental health conditions, primarily Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of this disorder typically include flashbacks, memory problems, low sense of self worth, trouble sleeping, relationship problems, hopelessness, aggression, and self-destructive behavior.

While many veterans require therapy and other types of mental health treatment for their PTSD after coming home, only a small fraction of them are able to receive it. In an effort to distract themselves from their trauma and the memories of war, veterans may self-medicate with substances like alcohol or illicit drugs. This self-medication may result in what is known as a co-occurring disorder, which is the combination of a substance abuse disorder and a mental health condition. When these two types of conditions are combined, the symptoms of both illnesses are typically worse and harder to treat.


More Reasons Why Veterans May Misuse Drugs Or Alcohol

Those who have PTSD may be prescribed opioids, benzos, or sedatives for their condition, which could lead to substance abuse after using for an extended period of time. Many veterans are also prescribed painkillers, like opioids, to relieve any physical pain they still have from battle. These medications are very addictive and can easily cause dependence. In some cases, veterans who become addicted to painkillers may turn to illicit substances because they are often cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription medications.

Another important factor to note is that alcohol use, specifically, is an integral part of military culture. During down time, many people in the military will enjoy a few beers together. Veterans may continue this habit after coming back from deployment and could become dependent on drinking. These dependence can quickly turn into alcoholism if it isn’t treated in time.


The Impact of Substance Misuse on Military Veterans

Addiction is a threatening disease no matter who it affects, but it can be especially dangerous for veterans. This is because veterans already come home with a variety of physical and mental health conditions, which makes them more vulnerable for addiction. Substance abuse can also make these conditions worse and can contribute to the development of new ones. For example, addiction has been known to lead to serious cases of depression, which is a common mental health condition among veterans. If a veteran has both depression and a substance abuse problem, they may be more likely to engage in acts of self-harm or suicide.


Substance Abuse Treatment for Veterans

There are many treatment options available for veterans struggling with addiction, and there are even special programs designed for those with co-occurring disorders. Plenty of rehabilitation facilities and treatment centers offer individualized programs for members of the U.S. military.

Treatment methods for addiction will vary based on the patient and their needs. In most cases, treatment will usually include a combination of pharmacological and psychological care. Medical treatment is also available for veterans who require medical care for other injuries or conditions.

To learn more about the impact of addiction on veterans or to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program, contact our team of addiction specialists by calling us at 866-345-2147.


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