Military veterans who return home from active service often face many challenges related to acclimating to civilian life. These challenges put veterans at risk for emotional and physical challenges when dealing with the trauma they experienced. Handling depression or turning to alcohol for help is a common coping mechanism for the veteran returning home again. Relying on a substance to manage a mental health disorder can worsen that disorder or cause new disorders to develop.
Substance Misuse and Co-Occurring Disorders in Veterans
The psychological and emotional trauma of experiencing war can stay with a person forever. Many veterans turn to substances to help them cope with those experiences. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the veteran population. While this may stem from experiencing a physical injury, veterans may also self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to combat the pain of their psychological scars as well. The National Veterans Foundation points out that alcohol misuse and addiction is common among the military population.
Some studies correlate the link between substance use disorders and military service:
- A study of nearly 600 vets returning from Afghanistan or Iraq saw 39 percent testing positive for alcohol misuse. Another 3 percent tested positive for drugs and 14 percent likely had post-traumatic stress syndrome.
- Another study of more than 678,000 active duty military personnel showed an increase in major depression and substance use disorders.
- A third study revealed an increase in suicide by military veterans between the years 2005 and 2007.
- A study reported on by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids showed that returning active duty military personnel from the U.S. Army showed an increase in both domestic violence and suicide.
With the current numbers showing 43 percent of active duty soldiers reporting binge drinking in the last month, it is clear that there is a correlation between the trauma experienced in war and substance misuse. What addiction treatment resources are available for military veterans and the families who love them?
Addiction Treatment for Veterans
Veterans may struggle with managing intrusive memories of what they experienced during their service. This can lead to an attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. For others, physical wounds require pain-relief medication that can lead to addiction.
Finding addiction treatment for returning veterans living with addiction is a crucial step toward healing and even potentially saving the life of the person struggling to adapt to civilian life while coming to terms with their new reality. Addiction treatment for veterans should be considered by those who find themselves using substances to cope with their past. Here are some specific resources compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- Educational resources such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse website offer information on the effects of drug and alcohol misuse along with treatment resources.
- Call the free military helpline to talk with other military members confidentially. These veterans understand what former soldiers and their families go through and provide counseling and support. The number is 1-888-457-4838, or you can visit the website to learn more.
- Contact the National Center for PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health crisis that former members of the military often experience after a deployment. The National Center for PTSD offers resources for anyone suffering from this disorder.
- Operation Homefront helps the families of military personnel by providing housing and support. Operation Homefront provides financial support to families by assisting with mortgages, utilities and groceries. They also link veterans with vital services to help them recover.
- Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. Their website also offers texting and chat services. The service is available 24/7 and is staffed by trained counselors able to help you understand the signs of substance use disorders and how to pursue addiction treatment.
- Visit the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program website to seek addiction treatment help. This resource is managed by the Veterans Health Association and provides rehabilitation services to veterans struggling with substance use disorders. The program can provide access to detox programs, psychiatric care and alcohol or drug rehab.
- The Women Veterans Call Center offers resources geared specifically to the concerns of female military veterans. Their website can connect women veterans with resources of all kinds, including addiction treatment and psychological counseling.
There are also private addiction resources available, including The Recovery Village Ridgefield. We help individuals with military and non-military backgrounds overcome substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. For veterans struggling with mental health disorders, we provide resources to help them overcome trauma while also addressing their drug and alcohol misuse.
From dealing with chronic pain to PTSD, military veterans struggle with challenges that can lead to a substance use disorder. Coping with physical and psychological trauma can lead to depression, substance misuse and addiction. Fortunately, there are resources ready to help you and your family get the help you need to move away from a life of addiction.
Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn more about admissions today.