The prevalence of substance abuse in veterans returning from active duty is largely a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, points out the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Additionally, many veterans return from deployment suffering from injuries and dependent on pain medication, reports the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
Women veterans face the added trauma of returning from male-dominated combat zones where they faced sexual harassment and threats of rape. Substance abuse is a problem that impacts not only the veterans, but also their families.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental disorder that afflicts those who have been exposed to traumatic events such as combat, injury, and personal danger. Its symptoms and persistence depend on the intensity of the trauma, its duration, and its personal impact on the victim. Statistics show that veterans suffering from PTSD tend to smoke cigarettes, binge-drink alcohol, and become addicted to drugs more frequently than those without PTSD. Although veterans’ use of illegal drugs has declined, returning military personnel often face addiction to prescription drugs.
Causes of Addiction in Returning Veterans
PTSD often manifests itself in insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, depression, and antisocial behavior. Veterans use alcohol and drugs to try to sleep better, feel less depressed and escape from their problems. Substance abuse exacerbates rather than diminishes their sense of hopelessness, shame, despair and isolation. The family and friends of veterans often find themselves caught up in a cycle of depression, anger, guilt, or other negative feelings.
Treatment for Veterans With Addictions
Veterans who recognize that they have substance-abuse problems should talk to a health care professional about treatment options. These may include individual psychotherapy sessions, group cognitive behavior treatments, or couples therapy. A VA physician may prescribe medication to help handle the symptoms of PTSD and substance abuse. The military is taking action to prevent prescription drug abuse by limiting prescriptions and having pharmacists monitor veterans’ medications, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Research about substance abuse and treatment in the military services is ongoing. Among the proposed solutions are increased insurance coverage for veterans so they can afford effective outpatient treatment and better education for health care providers so they can recognize and deal with the problem. To assist returning veterans in dealing with their substance abuse and other issues, donate to The Veterans Site.Whizzco