Rehab for Veterans
Due to the immense pressure and responsibility of serving our country, veterans are at a distinctly high risk of developing substance use disorders. Whether it’s an alcohol problem, a dependence on prescription drugs that started during service or an addiction to an illicit drug that’s developed since resuming civilian life, rehab for veterans caters to your specific needs. Soldiers can incur co-occurring mental health conditions such as PTSD, and getting treatment for both is essential.
Traditionally, people who have served in the military have a lot of pride and feel shame because they can see these conditions as weaknesses.
On the contrary, by putting your life at risk and fighting for the good of your fellow countrymen, you’ve exposed yourself to experiences that not many people go through. This has an inevitable impact on the brain and body. Often, EMDR therapy and targeted treatment are the best ways to get you back on track and feeling ready to take on the world again.
Causes of Substance Abuse for Ex-Military
There are many reasons that more than one in 10 veterans is diagnosed with a substance use disorder. It’s also assumed that this is an underestimate, as the military has intimidating zero-tolerance policies towards drug abuse, as well as the fact that there is a general stigma attached to addiction. Heavy drinking is seen as a legitimate coping mechanism during service, so it can be extremely difficult to self-identify when it has crossed into an uncontrollable compulsion.
Soldiers are often prescribed prescription medication such as benzodiazepines to help them cope with stress. While drinking and using pills is accepted, addiction is looked down on. Both substances are extremely addictive, and you don’t have a choice if you cross that line — substance use disorder is a disease. The conflicting messages about substance use can lead to people developing problems but feeling too embarrassed to speak up and seek help, which perpetuates this progressive illness.
Developing an Addiction Due to InjuryAnother major factor that can lead to ex-military personnel developing addictions is their increased risk of injury. If you’re in active service, you’re more likely to be prescribed strong painkillers, such as opiates. Some servicemen and women end up with chronic pain or brain injuries, which can significantly increase your risk of getting addicted to various substances. Mental health problems are also more common in veterans, due to the extreme circumstances of combat duty. If you’re someone who has fought for your nation, you are brave and strong. Suffering from PTSD, anxiety or depression is a normal reaction to being put into extraordinary circumstances and certainly not something to be ashamed of.
Many veterans who suffer from drug or alcohol use disorders have co-occurring mental health problems. One of the most prevalent of these is post-traumatic stress disorder, previously known as battle fatigue or shell shock. Witnessing the horrors of warfare can bring on this perfectly human response to trauma and startling events. If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, it’s imperative that you seek treatment:
- Self-destructive tendencies
- Trouble focusing
- Inappropriate aggression
- Struggles with interpersonal relationships
- Insomnia or sleep disturbances
- A persistent sense of hopelessness
- Not feeling good about yourself
- Memory problems
- A need to cover your feelings with substance abuse
Alcohol problems are the most common substance use disorder faced by military personnel. While alcohol use is not permitted while on duty, many people in the service report using it to unwind after a hard day and night on the job. If you’ve been through this, you will become an expert at hiding any developing problems with your use of alcohol. This is because compulsive substance use is looked down on by superiors.
The act of being secretive about your behavior can be a major risk factor for allowing the problem to get progressively worse. Once you return home, you may have developed a dependence on using alcohol to destress. You may start to drink heavily to drown out memories or deal with the pressures of daily life, causing you to spiral further into addiction.
Sleeping pills, benzodiazepines, opiate painkillers and ADHD medication are the prescription drugs most commonly abused by military personnel. All these drugs have a high risk of addiction and shouldn’t be used consecutively for more than a few weeks. Servicemen and -women can end up using them longer, either causing addiction or priming your brain to develop an addiction further down the line. Many veterans use drugs to help them cope once they have left the military.
Illicit drugs are more difficult to get hold of and use during service, as soldiers are regularly drug-tested. However, many veterans go on to develop addictions to illegal drugs once they have finished their tour of duty. Often, substances are used as coping mechanisms to try to dampen the intense feelings caused by PTSD, depression or anxiety.
- Substance abuse among veterans has increased over the last 10 years.
- Nonmedical prescription drug use and binge drinking are on the rise.
- In 1998, 35% of veterans reported binge drinking, while 47% admitted to it in 2008.
- In 2008, 35,240 veterans were diagnosed with opioid addiction; by 2010, this had jumped to 43,332.
- Alcoholism affected 303,448 people in 2008; in 2010, it was 362,737.
- Between 60% and 80% of people with PTSD had a co-occurring substance use disorder.
- 70% of homeless veterans have struggled with addiction.
- 33% of ex-military men and women who have a substance use disorder suffer from chronic pain.