Veterans and Substance Addiction During Civilian Life Transition

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Quite a large number of people previously serving in the military develop a substance addiction while transitioning to civilian life. Turning to alcohol, drugs and prescribed medications has become quite common among veterans trying to overcome their past experiences and live a normal life. The topic is quite complex, and there are various aspects that link addiction to service members.

But what exactly are the most common triggers of substance abuse in veterans, and how should these cases be treated?

Why is substance addiction so common among veterans?

Multiple deployments and increased combat exposure are to examples of traumatic events many veterans go through. Witnessing tragic events, or experiencing unpleasant emotions during years of service can lead to the development of a post-traumatic stress disorder.

From low self-esteem to flashbacks, self-destructive tendencies and troubles sleeping, PTSD comes with a wide variety of symptoms that are often unbearable. Some veterans simply find it highly difficult to transition back into civilian life, and face emotional and mental challenges. Drinking, taking pain meds too frequently or even consuming illegal substances can often become a coping mechanism for veterans dealing PTSD. The combination between a PTSD diagnosis and substance abuse has determined many to resort to MAT for Addiction.

In other cases, due to hard combat conditions, service workers are left with injuries and develop chronic pain problems. From the desire of easing pain, veterans start adopting addictive tendencies.

What solutions are available?

The topic of veteran substance abuse has been often discussed on a national scale, considering the worrying number of people finding themselves in this position. While the Department of Veteran affairs has programs available for veteran addiction, some prefer to avoid VA because it usually takes longer to get the needed assistance. Recovering veteran addicts usually opt for the following approaches:

  • Medication assisted treatment therapy – the symptoms of PTSD combined with substance withdrawal can take rehabilitation to an unbearable extent. This is why, veterans are recommended to choose medication assisted treatment therapy over traditional rehab programs. Reducing cravings and treating the disorder is far more effective when certain medications are mixed with traditional therapy methods.
  • One-on-one counseling –prevention is critical in these cases. Even after completing a rehabilitation program, the veteran is still subjected to high risk of relapsing. Keeping their PTSD disorder under control is the only way of preventing addiction reoccurrence, and one-on-one counseling is the recommended solution here. Veterans should go through personal therapy which will help them transition to civilian life while not relying on drugs or alcohol to cope.
  • Family therapy – it’s important for the entire family of the veteran to be involved in their addiction treatment. Family therapy can be more helpful for veterans than for the average addict.
  • Group Therapy – a service offered by VA as well, group therapy allows veterans to connect with others in their situation, and facilitates a more resourceful recovery journey, from both PTSD experiences and addiction.

Addiction has made quite a lot of victims in the veteran community, but nowadays, more treatment options are available for former military workers, and recovery success case rates are increasing.


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