by Thanush Poulsen
Members of the armed forces are exposed to psychological trauma and physical injuries in the battlefields. This combined with long separation from their loved ones takes a toll on their minds and bodies. Consequently, this predicament exposes many veterans to substance abuse disorder. That’s because they have to look for a way to deal with mental and physical stress that arises from their working conditions.
After wars, many veterans return home with physical pain, mental and emotional scars from their experiences in the battlefields. They use prescription medication to deal with the pain and emotional symptoms in some cases, especially when post-traumatic stress disorder is involved. This medication is meant for short-term use. However, getting over the emotional and physical trauma after the war takes time. As a result, many veterans become addicted to this medication.
Causes of Drug Addiction among Veterans
Military service comes with long-lasting physical and psychological repercussions. Many veterans turn to drug abuse to address these repercussions. Unfortunately, these lead to drug addiction.
Some of the causes of drug abuse and drug addiction among veterans include:
- Lack of adequate, quality sleep
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Relationship problems
Some veterans start abusing drugs while still in the service. One study conducted by NIDA shows that on returning from Iraq, more than 27% of the Army soldiers showed alcohol abuse signs. They were also at a higher risk of dangerous driving, drinking and using illicit drugs.
Signs of Veterans Drug Addiction
In some cases, it’s not easy for a veteran to know that they really have a drug addiction problem. However, there are many ways of determining if a veteran has a drug addiction problem and proceed to seek professional help.
Here are signs of drug addiction among veterans:
- Irresistible urge to use or inability to control drug use.
- The urge to take more of a similar drug to feel the effects felt initially.
- Experiencing sleeping problems, nausea, depression, restlessness, anxiety, and shaking after stopping the usage of a drug following prolonged use.
- Thinking about drugs continuously, using them constantly as well as skipping the initially best activities due to drug use.
- Experiencing depression, paranoia, and blackout after using the drug and still using it again.
If you or a veteran you know has experienced any or more of these problems, they have a drug addiction problem and they need professional assistance.
Services Available at the Veterans’ Rehab Facilities
After serving in the US Army, veterans can be eligible for VA benefits that cover their drug or alcohol rehabilitation costs. Veterans that need substance abuse treatment can begin this process by contacting the primary VA healthcare providers. They can also talk to the nearest Vet Center or use the VA information hotline.
Some of the available rehabilitation services for veterans include initial screening that is aimed at determining their need for alcohol or drug rehabilitation. They can also get counseling during outpatient when they need intensive rehabilitation. Residential care is also available for veterans that need structured supervision and intensive medical care during rehabilitation. Continuing care is also offered to help veterans adjust to the civilian world’s life. This includes access to self-help groups in the community.
Army veterans are also linked to organizations like the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association, National Guard Association of the United States, and Disabled American Veterans. These provide general support and help in dealing with life after leaving the forces. These organizations may not sponsor alcohol or drug treatment programs. However, they help veterans feel that they belong somewhere while providing direction to those with difficulties in adjusting to life outside the service.
Addiction Treatment for Veterans
Basically, there are many options to consider when it comes to rehab for veterans as compared to that of the average civilians. Apart from the traditional outpatient and inpatient rehab programs, a veteran has a unique option for seeking treatment via the Department of Veterans Affairs. This option is particularly beneficial for a veteran that may not afford a treatment program without financial aid.
The VA offers:
- Family counseling
- One-on-one counseling
- Group therapy
- Outpatient or inpatient rehab
- PTSD treatment
- Withdrawal medications
However, some veterans avoid VA when seeking medical care. That’s because getting treatment takes longer. Nevertheless, when it comes to serious addiction or PTSD cases, immediate treatment is important. That’s why some veterans seek treatment outside VA.
It’s important to note that the VA is becoming more responsive to the addiction recovery needs of the veterans. For instance, it now offers free addiction treatment services, medically supervised detoxification, outpatient treatment, and inpatient recovery programs to the veterans that meet the substance abuse disorder criteria.
In some cases, veterans can overcome addiction without using medication.
Some of the non-medication treatments for addiction that veterans can explore may involve:
- Making clearer and increasing the motivation of the veteran to change
- Helping the veteran improve skills for identifying and dealing with relapse risks and triggers
- Counseling couples on the best way to recover from addiction, stay sober and improve relationships
- Getting recovery support from outside programs that may include Alcoholics Anonymous
- Considering the relationship between substance abuse, addiction, and other problems like depression and PTSD.
Study indicates that substance abuse and addiction is a significant problem among military veterans. Fortunately, there are many conventional and VA drug rehabilitation programs that the former servicemen and women can explore. These provide psychological support, clinical care, and resources that veterans need to recover from drug addiction and stay sober. Nevertheless, it’s imperative for veterans to seek early intervention to ensure that the addiction problem doesn’t escalate and cause them and their loved ones more troubles.
About the Author
Thanush Poulsen is a health blogger from Denmark. Drug addiction, including alcohol, is an area of his particular interest. For many years, Thanush has been investigating this problem to find better treatment options for certain population groups.