Veterans and the substance abuse problem - We Are The Mighty
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Veterans and the substance abuse problem

Substance abuse among veterans is a growing problem in the United States. Many members of the military come home from deployment in war-torn areas with mental health and physical problems. The disabilities caused by their experiences in deployment makes substance abuse a more prevalent problem. Today, many women and men that have served or still serve in the US military struggle with drug addiction. Some of the veterans that have been involved or seen combat have co-occurring disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder or depression and addiction.


Such veterans turn to drugs like alcohol as a way of coping with stress and war challenges. Easy availability of alcohol and other drugs makes engaging in dangerous activities like binge drinking easy for veterans. Eventually, many veterans end up battling an addiction to illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol.

If a serviceman or woman you love has a substance abuse problem, call AddictionResource drug addiction helpline. This will enable you to get the help that your loved one needs to beat the substance abuse problem. Hotline numbers for addiction are manned by trained professionals that understand the pain that callers and their loved ones go through. They provide useful information about the available treatment options and guidance for those ready to undergo addiction treatment. Many veterans have received treatment after making this call and are now recovering.

Substance abuse among active service men and women

Research indicates that alcohol, prescription drug, and tobacco abuse is steadily increasing and more prevalent among members of the armed forces as compared to civilians. However, the use of illicit drugs is lower in the military than in the civilian population in the U.S. So, what compels active military members to abuse prescription drugs and alcohol?

A major cause of substance abuse among military men and women is the stress that comes with deployment to war-torn areas. Spending months away from home in challenging environments, fatigue, and loneliness, expose these men and women to substance abuse vulnerability. The unique military culture and strict discipline can also lead to addictive behaviors among active servicemen and women.

Unfortunately, many active servicemen and women do not call drug addiction hotline seeking help due to the stigma that is associated with the problem. Others fear that their confidentiality will be compromised if they speak about their problem.

Substance abuse problem among veterans

For some veterans, the substance abuse problem starts when in active service. However, some develop the problem after retiring from active service. Many veterans face complex economic and health challenges. Combat experiences come with psychological stress that veterans have to deal with. The demanding military life environment can also lead to substance use disorders.

Frequent moves and long deployments can strain relationships with their loved ones. Many veterans face problems like homelessness and unemployment. These are some of the challenges that lead veterans to alcohol and drug use as a way of readjusting to civilian life or coping with hardships.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, an estimated 7% of veterans in the U.S struggle with a substance use disorder. About 20% of the ex-servicemen and women that have been to Iraq and Afghanistan have depression, PTSD, or traumatic brain injury. All these conditions predispose veterans to addiction. Substance abuse and mental health issues are the major causes of U.S troops’ hospitalizations.

Statistics that reveal the reality

The Department of Defense has a strict, zero-tolerance drug use policy among the active members of the military. This may explain why many active servicemen with substance abuse problems opt not to call a drug abuse hotline. Nevertheless, tobacco and prescription drug abuse, as well as, alcoholism remains high among the active members of the military than among the civilians. And, substance abuse by veterans is increasing steadily.

For instance, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Service Administration reports that 7.1% of veterans were diagnosed with substance use disorder between 2004 and 2006.

Out of 10 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, 2 develop substance use disorder. And out of 6 veterans involved in Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns experience PTSD symptoms. 20% of the female veterans that served in Afghanistan and Iraq have PTSD. Out of 4 veterans involved in the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns, 1 reports signs of the mental health disorder.

25% of veterans between the age of 18 and 25 years reported symptoms of mental health disorders like SUD from 2004 to 2006. This is double the number of veterans that reported similar symptoms between the age of 26 and 54 years. It’s also 5 times the number of veterans that reported the same symptoms from the age of 55 years and above.

Major causes of substance abuse among veterans

Many soldiers face alcoholism and substance abuse problems after serving in wars. Both veterans and active military personnel can call rehab numbers seeking help with a substance abuse problem. However, the stigma associated with seeking help for addiction hinders them from getting assistance. Here are the major reasons why veterans and active members of the military can develop an addiction to prescription pills, illicit drugs, and alcohol.

  • Mental health problems
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Exposure to combat
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Substance misuse while in active service
  • Chronic pain caused by injuries and overuse
  • Challenges coping with stress
  • Challenges in adjusting to civilian life
  • Inability to acknowledge or recognize the problem
  • Stigma about seeking assistance
  • Stressors of serving in the military as a woman

Deployment to war-torn areas exposes members of the military to constant risks of permanent injury or death. As such, returning home to their loved ones should be a happy experience. However, getting back to civilian life after serving in the military is not easy for many veterans. Transitioning to a civilian life entails finding employment and housing. A veteran has to adjust to a life without the unit camaraderie and military benefits. Many veterans see unit members as their family because they share similar experiences. Therefore, civilian life feels alien to most of them. They feel disconnected and without a purpose. This prompts them to turn to addictive substances as a way of coping.

The bottom line

Substance abuse among veterans is a pressing issue. These people are susceptible to substance abuse and addiction because of the intense experience they get during combat and deployment. Reducing substance abuse among veterans has many challenges because the majority of them have co-occurring conditions like PTSD and depression. Nevertheless, veterans can call rehab numbers to seek help with their substance abuse problem.

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The 5 biggest stories in the military world right now (June 29)

Good morning! Here’s what’s happening around the national security space:


NOW CHECK OUT: 5 mind-blowing facts about the US Military

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Militants who killed US Special Forces troops were new to region

The Islamic extremists that ambushed and killed US Army commandos in Niger last week hadn’t operated in that area before, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Oct. 11, referring to what officials believe was a relatively new offshoot of the Islamic State group there.


Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Tampa, Mattis said he rejected suggestions that rescue forces were slow to respond to the assault, noting that French aircraft were overhead within 30 minutes. But he said the US military is reviewing whether changes should be made to these types of training missions in Africa.

“We will look at this and say was there something we have to adapt to now, should we have been in a better stance,” said Mattis. “We need to always look at this. We’re not complacent, we’re going to be better.”

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

US Africa Command has launched an investigation into the attack that will review what went wrong and whether additional security or overhead armed support may be needed for some of these missions.

American officials have said they believe the militants belonged to a tribal group that previously may have been tied to al-Qaeda or other extremists, but more recently re-branded themselves as IS. The officials said they do not believe the militants were fighters who came to Niger from outside the region. The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Three Army commandoes and a soldier were killed a week ago when dozens of militants ambushed them during a joint patrol with Niger troops. The US and Niger troops were in unarmored trucks.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
A US Army Special Forces weapons sergeant observes a Niger Army soldier during marksmanship training as part of Exercise Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, Feb. 28, 2017. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Klutts.

Mattis and other officials haven’t said how long it took to evacuate the troops, including several US and Niger forces who were wounded. One US Army soldier was missing for nearly two days before he was finally found by Niger troops around the area where the attack happened.

According to US officials, details about the exact timeline for the rescue effort are still unfolding. The troops were evacuated by French aircraft.

Army special forces have been working with Niger troops for some time, and that training effort has been increasing in recent years.

They are often working in remote locations well beyond what the US military likes to call the “golden hour.” That one-hour standard for medical evacuation was set during the peak war years in Iraq and Afghanistan and was aimed at getting wounded troops out within an hour of their injury, making it more likely they will get the treatment needed to survive.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
French Air Force at Niamey Air Base in Niger. Photo from Twitter user @Tom_Antonov.

Mattis praised the quick response of the French and Niger support forces.

“The French pilots were overhead with fast movers with bombs on them ready to help, and helicopters were coming in behind,” he said adding that Niger forces with French advisers also responded to the attack, which took place attack about 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The US and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were ambushed. There were about a dozen US troops and a company of Niger forces, for a total of about 40 service members in the joint mission.

US officials have described a chaotic assault in a densely wooded area, as 40-50 extremists in vehicles and on motorcycles fired rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns at the patrol, setting off explosions and shattering windows. The soldiers got out of their trucks, returning fire and calling in support from the French aircraft.

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Beijing vows ‘stern measures’ after US ship sails near South China Sea islands

China on Oct. 11 protested the sailing of a US Navy ship near its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying it would continue to take measures to protect Beijing’s interests in the vital waterway claimed by several nations.


A US official said the destroyer USS Chafee sailed near the Paracel Islands on Oct. 10, coming within 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) of land. The Navy does not announce such missions in advance and the official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denounced the mission as dangerous and a violation of China’s sovereignty. She said the military verified the presence of the US ship by sea and air and warned it off.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
The guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan.

“The Chinese government will continue to take firm measures to safeguard national territory, sovereignty, and maritime interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing.

China claims the South China Sea and its islands virtually in their entirety, and its military expelled Vietnamese forces from the Paracels in 1974. The US does not take an official position on sovereignty claims, but the Navy regularly sails through the area to assert freedom of navigation.

China usually claims to have “expelled” Navy ships on such missions and its relatively mild response this time suggested the Chafee had not entered what it claims are its territorial waters.

The South China Sea has crucial shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil, gas and other mineral deposits. China has carried out extensive land reclamation work on many of the islands and reefs it claims, equipping some with air strips and military installations.

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Guadalcanal

The unrelenting ferocity of the Pacific War was without a doubt the bloodiest and most savage of the two theaters of World War II. The memories of brutal battles like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Midway and Iwo Jima are forever seared into minds of the courageous men who fought there.  The island of Guadalcanal represented one of the last chances for the Allies to turn back the Japanese advance in the Pacific.  Marine veteran Victor Croizat experienced the “hell of earth” of the battle for Guadalcanal.

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Going bald? Here are the 5 best military haircuts for you

As you progress in your military career, you find yourself struggling to maintain the era of your youth. The bones creak, the muscles ache, the skin sags and for some of us… the hair starts to go.

It is not easy going bald (trust me, I know) but for many men, it is a part of life that we have to come to terms with at some point… or maybe not.

For me, the loss was sudden. I joined the Marines late at the ripe old age of 24. At this point, I knew my hair was thinning, although it wasn’t that bad. I figured I had a good six years or so before it was gone and didn’t think much of it heading to boot camp. At boot camp, like everyone else, I had my head shaved every week.

But my journey at Parris Island took slightly longer than 13 weeks. I got dropped twice (once was because my arms got infected from so many sand flea bites). As soon as I got back into training, I got pneumonia in both lungs at the Crucible and was dropped again. By the time I graduated, I had been on the Island for five months. My last haircut was supposed to be the first “Marine” cut — when you get the high and tight and start looking like a Marine and not a recruit.

But for me, that didn’t quite work out. I sat in the chair and the barber buzzed the sides of my head, took a step back and started laughing. I was confused until I turned around. In the span of just five months, my hair … was… gone! Yup, it happened that fast.

Instead of a high and tight, I had what my Drill Instructors called a “low and loose,” two strips on either side of my head. It was embarrassing and I asked if I could just shave my head. I was told that because I was bald, I could… but only after I left the Island. (To this day, I am convinced that they made up the last part because they wanted to mess with me).

When my mom saw me, she asked if my haircut was some type of crazy hazing the military did.

Needless to say, the minute I left Parris Island, I “Bic’d” my head.

In the end, it worked out. While I didn’t have access to any hair loss products that worked, I learned rapidly that there was a benefit to being bald in the Marines.

Every Sunday, when all my buddies had to pull themselves out of bed and stumble into town to get haircuts, I slept in. While they waited in line for hours with everyone else, I went to the beach, downtown San Diego, bars and drove around enjoying my Sunday. On Monday morning, I grabbed my clippers, did a quick shave and headed to PT.

That being said, while hair loss is hair loss is preventable, there are options for when you lose your hair in the military. Some are good, some are… options.

Here are the 5 best haircuts you can get if you are going bald:

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
Horseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, & LCpl Wilson sp… | FlickrHorseshoe Haircuts | LCpl Ogle, Pvt Martin, LCpl Wilson sp… | Flickr

1.  Horseshoe (and reverse shoe)

Other than the stripes on your collar, nothing says you are salty than breaking out the old horseshoe cut.

If you are suffering from male pattern baldness, this is the cut to go with (assuming it is allowed). Just shave the sides and allow the bald spot to turn into the “landing strip” that a B-52 can land on. The cut isn’t for everyone, but if you are a senior enlisted that has been around the block and is saltier than the Dead Sea, this is the cut for you.

If you are a boot, this is not the way to go.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
Imitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | FlickrImitation Male Pattern Baldness | Brian Omura | Flickr

2. Low and loose

Yup, you can have my travesty of a haircut and just go with it provided you aren’t actually bald yet like I was. For some of us, balding is just your hair slowly thinning away. While you can take steps to prevent baldness, you can also still rock your high and tight but with a little less on the top. The only issue you have to be aware of is the PONR (Point of No Return). If you have gone bald, there is a point where you just can’t fake the funk anymore. The low and loose works until you get to that point. Then you just have to move on.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem

Dvids

3. Low reg with a combover

The Recon or low reg works great if you are starting to thin from the front. What was usually the haircut of choice for the high-speed guys or the guys who couldn’t wait to get out, the low reg is your path to still having a great head of hair. Just grow it out and comb it forward. It’s easy, leaves you with a full head of hair (for now), and helps cover up the receding hairline. The only downside: You might incur the wrath of a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major who may not like the hippie-style haircut you are sporting.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
Bruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | FlickrBruce Willis – hi res scan | Photo taken at 61st Academy Awa… | Flickr

4. Bruce Willis hold out

If you followed the career of Bruce Willis, you saw the gradual and dignified way he slowly went bald. No combover, no toupees, no hair plugs, no headbands (looking at you LeBron). He just slowly went bald and over the course of his career aged well. Now, the caveat to this is that he had a nice, even, slow receding hairline which for many of us, doesn’t happen. But if you are a John McClane type, you can just go gracefully without having to do much. But eventually Bruce had to resort to Plan B, which was…..

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
File:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia CommonsFile:Bruce Willis Comic-Con 2010.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

5. Shave

Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Vin Diesel, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Gandhi, Common, Britney Spears (jk), and many others have shown us that bald is beautiful. Shaving your head is easy, saves you money, and might make you look more badass than you were before.

When I lost mine, I realized that I actually looked better bald than with hair. Luckily, I have a nice shaped head. If you don’t, then shaving might not be the best course of action and you need to find something else. But shaving your head saves you money on haircuts and shampoo, saves you time in the morning, makes you look hardcore and shows that you are ok with being who you are. If you got it, flaunt it.

Losing your hair isn’t easy regardless if you have time like Bruce Willis or lose it pretty fast like me. You can always find a great solution to hair loss like Xcellerate35, and you can also find confidence in rocking out a great style that makes you feel great both in and out of uniform.

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Jordan’s new Black Hawks will punish terror cells on its border

In the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, the utility helicopter almost everyone wanted was the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, best known as the “Huey.” This helicopter became very popular, selling to just about anyone who wasn’t a commie (although the communists did grab a few). Over 16,500 Hueys were purchased.


Today, it’s the UH-60 Black Hawk that is in high demand. Saudi Arabia recently bought 17 for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces. Earlier this year, the Times of Israel reported that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recently took delivery on the last two UH-60 Black Hawks of a 12-chopper order.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
A Jordan Armed Forces UH-60 sits on the tarmac. (U.S. State Department photo)

The report quoted a Tweet from the United States Embassy in Jordan noting that these helicopters will help strengthen the Quick Reaction Force of the Jordanian Armed Forces. This special operations unit is composed of three airborne battalions and a squadron of UH-60M helicopters. The UH-60M, according to Lockheed Martin, can hold 11 troops or roughly one squad of infantry.

The Quick Reaction Force also had a separate aviation brigade that is being handed over to the Royal Jordanian Air Force. This unit had UH-60L Black Hawks alongside MD-530F helicopters (roughly equivalent to the MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird helicopters) and CN-235 and C-295M transport planes. The unit also has the 37th Royal Special Forces Group, which has one group responsible for carrying out special operations and another assigned to counter-terrorism missions.

Jordan has been a part of the coalition taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), suffering the loss of a pilot in 2015 after he was burned alive following his capture by the radical Islamic terrorist group. The al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, has operated in Syria as well.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
UH-60 Black Hawks are on the tarmac while a mix of UH-60s and MD530Fs fly overhead. (U.S. State Department photo)

The new Black Hawks join a mix of S-70, UH-60A, and the aforementioned UH-60Ls currently in service. FlightGlobal.com noted in World Air Forces 2018 that Jordan had 20 Black Hawks of all types on hand and 10 more on order.

One thing for certain is that the helicopter of choice for most special operations units is the Black Hawk.

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Airborne Assault On D-Day

June 6th, 1944…D-Day. It was the greatest military assault ever staged. Code named Operation Overlord, the massive invasion of Normandy by the Allies involved more than a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors and airmen as well as 5000 ships and 3000 aircraft.  

Tom McCarthy and Francis Lamoureux were Parachute Infantrymen during the epic conflict. They tell their riveting first-hand accounts in this dramatic presentation, Airborne Assault on D-Day. 

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US military to ground CH-53 helicopters after accident in Okinawa

The US forces in Japan will ground all CH-53E helicopters to confirm their safety after the same type of chopper crash-landed near a US military training area in Okinawa on Oct. 11, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said.


The minister said that Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, deputy commander of US Forces Japan, told him of the decision during their talks in Tokyo on Oct. 12. An official of the Defense Ministry’s local bureau, meanwhile, said the accident site was found to have been about 300 meters away from residential houses.

The Japanese and US governments apparently decided to act quickly to address local concerns in a bid to minimize any repercussions from the incident with a general election in Japan slated for Oct. 22.

The US Marine Corps in Japan separately announced a four-day operational halt for the CH-53E transport helicopters stationed in Okinawa. The southern island prefecture hosts the bulk of US military facilities in Japan.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter inserts components of the Improved Ribbon Bridge into the water in the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan. USMC photo by Cpl. Drew Tech.

In the Oct. 11 accident, the helicopter caught fire in midair during a training flight and burst into flames as it made an emergency landing near the US Northern Training Area on the main island of Okinawa. None of its seven crew members or local residents were hurt.

The US Naval Safety Center has rated the accident as a most serious “Class A” mishap, saying that a fire broke out in one of the aircraft’s engines, forcing it to make an emergency landing.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his dismay over the incident as he visited the site in the village of Higashi, saying, “I felt disconcerted at seeing the sudden change from ordinary life to this horrible situation. I feel sad.”

In Tokyo, Onodera told Chiarotti the accident was “deplorable” and had caused “considerable anxiety among the residents living nearby and other people in the prefecture.”

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
US Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, exits a CH-53E Super Stallion. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer.

The minister also urged the United States to clarify the cause of the accident, provide detailed information, and take thorough safety measures, noting that the crashed aircraft is a variant of the one that crashed in 2004 at a university in Ginowan City in Okinawa.

Chiarotti told Onodera that the helicopter made the emergency landing after smoke, apparently from the engine fire, made its way inside. The aircraft headed to an area where there were no houses, he added.

He also said the US military is aware of the concerns of local people and will consider measures to prevent such incidents.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sonata.

The CH-53E helicopter belongs to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. Its crash-landing is the latest in a string of accidents involving US aircraft in Okinawa, including the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

People in Okinawa have long been frustrated with noise, crimes and accidents connected to US bases.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces to use their expertise in looking into the cause of the incident rather than solely relying on US investigations, a senior government official said.

Local police dispatched officers and cordoned off the accident site, investigating the case as a possible violation of a Japanese law on endangering aviation.

Veterans and the substance abuse problem
The crashed CH-53. Photo from Kyodo News+ via NewsEdge.

But it remains unknown whether Japanese authorities can probe the cause as they do not have the power to search or seize US military assets without consent under the Japan-US status of forces agreement.

The Okinawa prefectural government said it had tried to conduct some environmental tests Wednesday night at the accident site, suspecting the helicopter may have been equipped with a safety device that contained a low-level radioactive isotope, but its officials were denied entry by the US military.

The CH-53E is a large transport helicopter used by US Marines. It has three engines and can carry up to 55 personnel.

The Northern Training Area, straddling the villages of Higashi and Kunigami, has helipads that are also used by the Osprey aircraft and some of them are located close to residential areas.

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