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Do Veterans Have Substance Abuse Problems?

Substance abuse disorders among veterans is a huge problem. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), trauma, mental health issues, and pain from injuries often drive veterans to drink and use substances to cope. In an article published by the National Institutes of Health about substance abuse and military life, it is stated that:

More than one in ten veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, slightly higher than the general population. One study found that the overall prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) among male veterans was lower than rates among their civilian counterparts when all ages were examined together. However, when looking at the pattern for only male veterans aged 18–25 years, the rates were higher in veterans compared with civilians. The veteran population is also greatly impacted by several critical issues related to substance use, such as pain, suicide risk, trauma, and homelessness. (NIH)

Active military and veterans are more likely to have problems with alcohol and prescription medications than nonmilitary personnel.

Causes Of Substance Use Disorders in Veterans

Problems re-integrating into society after leaving the military are a big cause of substance abuse among veterans. Veterans come out of the military and have issues with sleep, chronic pain, traumatic brain injuries, and violence in relationships. Veterans may initially be prescribed a prescription opioid for an injury. They end up continuing to use the opioid, when it’s no longer needed, to cope with their PTSD, and then become addicted. Also, many veterans have co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis) such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD along with addiction issues. Traumatic events that may have happened, especially during combat, cause veterans to want to self-medicate or numb themselves from the pain. There are several causes of substance abuse disorders in veterans. Some of the biggest reasons include:

  • History of Deployment
  • History of Combat Exposure
  • History of Pain from Injuries Sustained During Their Service
  • History of Child Physical or Sexual Abuse
  • Problems Re-Integrating Into Society After Leaving the Military

Long-Term Substance Abuse Risks for Veterans

Long-term substance abuse in veterans has some severe risks associated with it. Suicide, homelessness, and/or veterans in prison are three of the biggest risks when it comes to long-term substance abuse. Let’s talk about suicide among the veteran population. Suicide among veterans is a big concern. An estimated 30% of veteran suicides are those who have also struggled with substance abuse issues. Homelessness is another big issue with veterans. 11% of the entire homeless population are veterans, and an estimated 70% of those have a substance abuse problem. 20% of veterans that are in substance abuse treatment programs are homeless. Prison and jail terms are yet another big problem with the veteran population. 55% of the veterans that are in jail and 48% of veterans that are in prison have mental health disorders, and we know that there is a strong correlation between mental health disorders and substance abuse.

Treatment for Veterans with Drug Addiction

Veterans that have substance abuse issues more than likely have co-occurring mental health disorders and/or PTSD that must also be treated. The VA does have a program specifically designed to help veterans that struggle with addiction. It is called the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program. If a veteran is enrolled and receiving care from the VA, they qualify for this program. Even if there aren’t any VA locations near them, they can still get remote help.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment for Veterans

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, our addiction specialists are available around the clock to assist you. Evoke Wellness at Cohasset offers evidence-based treatment programs to cater to the individual needs of each patient. We provide solution-focused addiction treatment to help you obtain long-lasting recovery. You don’t have to continue to suffer. Call us today and let us help you get better.