Widgets Magazine

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.