War Veterans and Substance Abuse

war veterans and substance abuse

It is not uncommon for service members to bring the inevitable trauma of combat with them into subsequent life as civilians, suffering from psychological and emotional repercussions long after they return home. One study concluded that one out of every four veterans returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan experienced significant symptoms of a cognitive or mental disorder. This same study found that one out of every six returning veterans experienced severe symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The mental disorders that many veterans tend to develop while fighting overseas are strongly linked to substance abuse and dependency. Other issues that are frequently experienced by those returning from combat, such as insomnia, brain injuries, and anger issues, are also closely linked to substance dependency disorders. Essentially, war veterans are at a much greater risk of addiction than members of the general population – especially young adult, male veterans.

“According to a report of veterans in 2004-2006, a quarter of 18- to 25-year-old veterans met criteria for a past-year substance use disorder, which is more than double the rate of veterans aged 26-54 and five times the rate of veterans 55 or older.”

Drug Addiction and Service Members

Historically, those returning from war have repeatedly turned to alcohol as a means of coping with lasting psychological ramifications. Over the course of the past several years, however, prescription medications have become the most widely abused substance by far. Medical professionals readily prescribe pharmaceuticals to veterans afflicted with lasting physical pain, anxiety disorders, or invasive symptoms of PTSD. Studies show that in 2009, nearly 3.8 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written by military physicians – suggesting that many cases of addiction began long before the service members returned home. The number of written prescriptions has quadrupled since 2001.

Treatment Options for War Veterans

Unfortunately, the stigma that surrounds drug abuse within the military prevents a large amount of addicted service members from seeking the help they so desperately need. One of the most effective ways to combat the skyrocketing rates of addiction amongst military personnel is to increase the amount of available and adequate treatment. In the vast majority of cases, it is crucial that veterans seek dual-diagnosis treatment – so that they can simultaneously work through their psychological issues and substance dependency disorders. Dual-diagnosis facilities will typically have a prescribing psychiatrist on-site, who will carefully evaluate each client and provide them with the medication necessary to properly treat all underlying disorders. If both disorders are not treated concurrently, the risk of relapse increases significantly.

We at Next Chapter Treatment have ample experience working closely alongside veterans, and we sincerely believe that will a comprehensive program of treatment, long-term recovery is a possibility for anyone. For more information, please give us a call today.