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Veterans and Addiction – The Sad Reality

Few people are aware of the prevalence of veterans and addiction in the US today.

According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the suicide rate among Veterans is extremely high, estimated to be around 22 deaths per day.

Military Veterans, as well as their families, face unique challenges in life. Military operations often require those who serve to be deployed numerous times and be exposed to combat with all of the physical and mental suffering associated with that. Compounded by physical and mental traumas, emotional stress is easily mishandled.

Some Veterans take drugs to help them to reduce the stress of problems in their daily lives or to forget problems or unpleasant memories of time served in the military. One study reveals that one in four Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of mental disorder. One in six Veterans reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Substance abuse and dependence are linked closely to these disorders.

According to a Department of Defense (DOD) Health Behavior Survey, although illegal drug use in the military has declined, prescription drug abuse and excessive alcohol use have increased. The number of troops diagnosed with substance abuse disorders rose by 50% (almost 40,000) from 2005-2009. Substance abuse hospitalizations escalated from 100 troops monthly to more than 250 per month in 2009.

Do You Have a Substance Abuse Problem?

It is typical for illegal drug use to start casually, and for prescription drug use to focus treatment on a particular problem. After a while, the drug use is no longer casual or focused. For the Veteran on drugs, ingesting it becomes necessary just to get through the day.

Signs of drug addiction involve:

  • Using more of the prescription drug than was prescribed
  • Using prescription and recreational drugs daily or several times a day
  • Buying the drugs even though you can’t afford it
  • Feeling like you can’t handle life without it
  • Focusing most of your time and energy thinking about, getting, and using the drug
  • Changes in your sleeping and eating habits
  • Neglect of personal hygiene and appearance
  • Deteriorating relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
  • Mood swings
  • Loss of interest or stopping activities that you used to enjoy
  • Sneaking, lying, and stealing

If these behaviors currently resemble you, you are in trouble and may want to consider getting help. Reaching out when you need help is not weakness; it’s a sign of wisdom. There are various treatment options, including inpatient care, to help Veterans on drugs.

The Best Environment for Veterans and Addiction

Once you have decided to get help, an assessment by a professional can help you determine if outpatient or inpatient treatment will be the most successful for you. Considerations include insurance coverage, how motivated you are to get treatment. You will also want to consider family, job, or privacy issues.

Benefits of outpatient treatment include:

  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Non-restricted family contact and support

Benefits of inpatient treatment include:

  • A secure, and safely monitored detoxification
  • Access to 24-hour medical attention
  • Therapy
  • Counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Peer support
  • A wide range of accommodations
  • Absence of daily distractions, allowing the patient to focus entirely on recovery

Veterans and addiction is a complex but treatable condition. If addiction is accompanied by PTSD, the treatment must be directed toward addressing that aspect of the condition, as well.  There are many professional treatment facilities that can effectively treat dual diagnosis patients. Veterans, you can win your war on drugs.

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