If you have a loved one or work colleague who is a veteran, you will be aware of the toll that service can take on a person.  It is common for a person who has experienced combat overseas to suffer from mental health issues, including substance abuse.

We should be aware of this challenge and more understanding of the difficulty facing veterans; with awareness and understanding comes compassion and change.

1. Factors Regarding Veterans And Substance Abuse

According to statistics, the use of illegal substances among military personnel is very low when compared to civilians.  This is due to the men and women who are active in the military having to undergo random drug testing and conforming to strict policies regarding substance usage.

However, drug abuse with particular focus on prescription medication abuse is a growing problem among duty military personnel and veterans.  According to research, the misuse of prescription drugs increased from 2% in 2002 to 4% in 2005 and 11% in 2008.

2. Veterans Experience Problems With Alcohol

While alcohol may be a legal substance to consume, many people opt to use it as an abusive substance with veterans being among this group of people.  According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, approximately one in eight troops will receive treatment for alcohol abuse after returning from military duty overseas.

While women are not immune to the problem, statistics have shown that males have a greater vulnerability to alcohol dependency and alcohol addiction.  Evidence has shown that approximately 23% of male veterans will binge drink as compared to females who have a 14% statistic.

3. Substance Abuse With Veteran Suicide

For the majority of modern military history, the rate of suicide has been lower among troops and military veterans when compared to civilians; however, as of 2004 the cases of suicide within the military have been increasing dramatically.

Statistics show that in the year 2008, the suicide rate in the military actually surpassed the suicide rate among US civilians.  According to the Army Suicide Prevention Task Force, substance abuse is a common factor in these cases of suicide and approximately one-third of the cases included prescription medication abuse.

4.Linking Substance Abuse And PTSD

One of the most common mental health conditions among military veterans is post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD.  The experiences of first-hand combat haunt military personnel and many suffer from flashbacks which contribute to panic attacks, nightmares, and other symptoms characteristic of PTSD.  While there are those who will seek treatment for the disorder, others opt for self-medication in the form of alcohol or drugs.

Research has shown that almost one quarter of all military veterans with PTSD will develop substance abuse problems, and one-third of those seeking treatment for substance abuse will have a co-morbid case of PTSD.

5.Treatment Is Available For Veterans

If you are a veteran and are struggling with substance abuse problems, or you are aware of a veteran who is facing this issue, it is important to know that help is available.  The Department of Veterans Affairs offers several services for military veterans including screening and diagnosis.

To support confidentiality, the first step can be performed anonymously and once conducted the veteran can choose whether or not to continue with treatment.  One good area to undergo therapy is to detox in Florida. It’s a nice climate and makes the process a little easier and detox is a game of small numbers.

The options for treatment are numerous and include support groups, therapy, family counselling, care for dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental illness, and medication.  It is also possible to utilize residential treatment as an alternate option to outpatient care.


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