Last updated: 05/6/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Substance abuse among veterans is an extremely serious issue, one that requires understanding, care, and, in most cases, professional treatment. If you are a veteran struggling with addiction or you have a loved one who is in this position, we can help you find a safe, reliable rehab program that will allow you to create a strong recovery.
How Are Veterans Impacted By Addiction?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Between 2004 and 2006, 7.1% of U.S. veterans met the criteria for a substance use disorder.” The issue of substance abuse is serious among this population, and the link occurs for a number of reasons.
- Many veterans experience issues with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD). This mental disorder can be extremely debilitating, and unfortunately, many individuals turn to substance abuse as an attempt to self-medicate. This is, of course, very dangerous, and it is also the reason why “more than 2 of 10 veterans with PTSD also have [a substance use disorder]” (US Department of Veteran Affairs).
- Other mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, etc., are often higher among this population than civilian populations. These issues can also lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
- The pressures of the military lifestyle and other experiences associated with the life of a veteran can lead someone toward substance abuse.
- Prescription pain medications have, in recent years, been overprescribed to individuals returning from military service. Because many individuals are hurt in the line of duty, doctors prescribe medications for pain, and many of these veterans become dependent on opioids. Sometimes, this can lead to substance abuse in those who struggle with their dependence and/or tolerance to the drug.
Overall drug use in recent years has risen sharply among veteran populations, even though the use of illicit drugs has minimized (Office of National Drug Control Policy). This shows that not only do veterans abuse prescription drugs in higher numbers than ever before but that this issue is becoming severe.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms that a Veteran Is Using Drugs?
If your loved one is suffering from a mental disorder, especially one associated with their time in the service of their country, it is more likely that they may turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Signs of depression, anger, and confusion can all point to substance abuse. A person may also
- Make excuses to take more medication
- Stop enjoying activities that once mattered to them
- Become hostile if you mention their substance use
- Hide drugs, prescription pads, and other items from you
- Not want to say where they’ve been or where they are going
When Should I Seek Help?
If you believe your loved one is abusing drugs, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. It can be extremely dangerous to turn a blind eye to this issue, especially if your loved one is also likely to be suffering from an anxiety or another type of mental disorder. The signs and symptoms listed above point to someone who needs help, and if your spouse, parent, child, etc. shows these signs, it is time to talk to them and to find an appropriate treatment option.
If you have noticed that your substance use has become dangerous, there is no better moment to seek help. The longer you allow your illicit use of dangerous drugs to continue, the more severe your situation will likely become––and the harder it will be to stop.
What Treatment Options Exist for This Group?
The options for veterans who are struggling with substance abuse often include both medications and behavioral therapies (VA). In addition, anyone who is being treated for a substance use disorder, especially someone who has served, must be screened for the presence of any mental disorders, which in turn, must be addressed and treated along with their substance abuse. Over time, therapies and medications can help to minimize the issue of substance abuse and allow the individual to again live a happy, productive life.