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They risked their lives and gave their time and service to our great nation. They sacrificed so much of themselves. These are the veterans of the military of the United States. For many members of the military, they retire from their time serves with haunting memories they would rather not have. Many of them are plagued with mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. For many veterans, substance abuse is also a real issue.

Veterans Drug and Alcohol Addiction

While the entire country is facing the plague of substance abuse, this is especially true for the veteran population. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use is all too prevalent for veterans.

Why do veterans suffer with alcohol and drug addiction? For some veterans, they have difficulty transitioning back to civilian life. Others have many mental and emotional struggles. Chronic pain is a problem for many others.

There are many reasons veterans may have difficulty transitioning into civilian life:

  • Returning to or finding civilian employment (for some, additional training or education may be needed)
  • Navigating benefits and services that were previously provided by the military, including healthcare
  • Finding housing, especially for families
  • Finding camaraderie and a sense of community outside of the military
  • Adjusting to everyday life choices

Statistics on Veterans and Addiction

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.

PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans

It isn’t easy to understand the complex combination of emotions that overtake veterans when they return from military service. It can be extremely difficult to transition back into civilian life. Thousands of veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a debilitating mental health disorder that is caused by traumatic events. Often, veterans who struggle with PTSD turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate.

Signs and symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Reliving traumatic events
  • Intense feelings of anxiety and helplessness
  • Difficulty sleeping, contentrating or controlling emotions and thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Partaking in self-destructive behaviors
  • Sudden bouts of anger, hypervigilance and adrenaline
  • Avoiding people, places or situations that may remind one of the events

Two of the most significant issues facing our country’s brave veterans are substance use disorder and PTSD. When left untreated, the combination of these two disorders can be deadly. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma surrounding both of these diseases. However, it’s time to end the negative perception and let our veterans know that it’s okay to ask for help.

Common Substances Abused by Veterans

There are different substances that are abused for different reasons. Veterans also may be prescribed medications such as painkillers, anti-anxiety medication or sedatives. What may begin as a legitimate prescription can quickly turn into an addiction, particularly with opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium and sedatives like Ambien. These drugs are all habit-forming and can create quite a problem.

Alcohol is another substance that is frequently misused by veterans. It is the substance of choice for many veterans who are self-medicating as a way to cope with PTSD and other mental health disorders.

Veteran Recovery Is Our Mission

Our facilities have helped thousands of veterans overcome a drug or alcohol addiction. At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, our treatment programs offer veterans:

  • Veteran Advocates who can navigate the VA on your behalf to enter treatment faster
  • Experienced clinicians trained in military culture and trauma-informed care
  • Dual diagnosis to treat addiction and mental health disorders together  

Substance Abuse Resources for Veterans

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.

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.

Veterans and Substance Abuse Treatment

If you or a loved one is a veteran struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, it’s imperative that you receive treatment as soon as possible. It’s essential that you find a national treatment center that specializes in the treatment of co-occurring disorders–co-existing mental health disorders like PTSD and substance use disorders.

You may need inpatient treatment where you are on campus around the clock or you may be able to participate in a partial hospitalization program or outpatient treatment program. In a treatment program, you will undergo therapy (group and individual), courses and other healing activities to address the psychological, mental and emotional aspects of your substance use disorder.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Our facility also offers treatment for those patients who have a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Located close to Tacoma, Washington; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is an excellent choice for veterans seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Give us a call, and speak to one of our addiction specialists about how you can begin your recovery journey.