Veterans coming home from a military deployment can face several challenges in trying to fit back into society. One of the most important issues is undoubtedly all the mental and physical turmoil they went through. Maybe they lost a friend, lost an appendage, or a part of their sanity.
Veterans, especially in the Army or Marine Corps, who had moderate to severe combat have high rates of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Such veterans can also show signs of other mental health problems, drug abuse and other physical health problems connected with their military service traumas.
Substance Abuse Among Military Members
The issue of substance abuse among military veterans is not news to most of us. The fighting is terrible, painful, extremely stressful, it’s no wonder they end up finding other ways of coping with their experiences. People who have been exposed to combat and extreme conditions are more likely to develop mental health issues and maybe even substance abuse disorders.
If a person develops a problem with their mental health, if they are not educated on mental health and ways of bettering it, they could easily resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Soldiers are brought up to be tough, gritty, and professional. Though this is the mindset of a soldier, it often prevents them from seeking out the help they need because it goes against that tough image. Because of this, they start to develop problems like depression, which could easily lead to addiction.
How Veterans Suffer Depression and Addiction
Many men and women who serve in the military fight against alcohol addiction because of depression or anxiety. As we mentioned previously, this can lead a veteran down a dark path to substance abuse. In addition, soldiers who have seen combat can have joint conditions, such as PTSD which can worsen or even cause their substance abuse disorder. Tragic events like exposure to warfare and numerous deployments can result in drug or alcohol use, all too often leading to addiction.
We’ve talked a little bit about PTSD, but let’s take a deeper look at the major cause for addiction among military veterans to better understand it.
Veterans and PTSD
Most soldiers with a disability have a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is coinciding. Once named “shell-shock” and later “combat tiredness,” PTSD can be triggered by a conflict or other substantially traumatic or catastrophic incidents.
Although PTSD is triggered by fighting in most instances, veterans can also be impacted by sexual abuse — about 23% of female veterans have reported sexual assault in the military.
Some PTSD signs include:
- Memory problems
- Low sense of self-worth
- Trouble sleeping
- Relationship problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Self-destructive behavior (self-harm or substance abuse)
Knowing this, it’s easy to see how a veteran may resort to unhealthy habits for coping like substance abuse. Let’s take a deeper look at the kind of substances that are often abused by military veterans.
Because alcohol is relatively cheap and highly present among military personal, it has become a big issue for veterans. Alcohol is a legal substance that you can acquire pretty much anywhere, which can make it tantalizing to people who are looking to feel euphoria or numbness. Soldiers are often rewarded with a night off after hard work, which often turns into trips to bars or drinking with fellow soldiers. This kind of behavior, if left unchecked, can carry on outside of combat.
While still engaged, many men and women in service may search for something to help alleviate the daily tension they experience. The cannabis plant can be cultivated in a large variety of environments and can easily be found in most areas, unlike most narcotics or crops in general. Some veterans have reported in Afghanistan that they will buy Hash, a cannabis extract from locals.
Although medicinal marijuana has been discussed as a method for treating PTSD among veterans for some time, Hash is one concentration that creates severe mental alterations that can harm the psyche in the long run.
Stimulants are not necessarily something veterans will be looking for themselves, especially amphetamines. A returning veteran usually searches for the opposite effects. However, while active, a combination of medications they knew little about could be administered. Amphetamines are highly potent medications that can cause serious dependence among users is used outside of medical purpose.
Unknowingly and without proper supervision, ingesting these drugs could create numerous challenges when veterans return home. Addiction to this kind of substance can cause a person to become irritable, violent, and anxious. This can easily push them to a point of no return.
Perhaps veterans have difficulty sleeping due to things like PTSD. Sleeplessness can be the root of many other problems. Sleep aids are often used by veterans dealing with insomnia. However, some can become too reliant on these pills. They can start to rely on them too much or they can start using them outside of their intended purposes.
It can seem safe to take such drugs in the night, but without full realization of the long-term effects, they can be risky to use. This is especially true when a diagnosed mental illness such as PTSD triggers sleep problems. Not only does this increase the chance of addiction, but it also has negative and possibly aggressive effects on the person’s mental and physical health.
Treatment for Veterans and Drug Addiction
For people, it seems to be a happy time to return home to veterans. However, many of these veterans are continuing a fight they didn’t initially sign up for. PTSD and depression after deployment can cause serious issues with things like substance abuse. Reintegrating is much more difficult than most of us know. Turning to self-medicine often tends to be the most simple, least burdensome way to cope with the renewed civilian life.
If you are, or someone you love is, a veteran with problems adapting to a life outside the military because of addiction, look for help today. Reach out to a designated healthcare professional when you don’t know where to start. Veterans hospitals specialize in aftercare for veterans and can help them get back up on their feet after their time in the military.
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