Our Guide To Veterans and Addiction

Guide to Veterans and Addiction (1)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 | By Cooper Samp

What you need to know and what you can do

In this post, we’ll talk about the topic of addiction among the military and veterans. You might be surprised to discover that veterans have the ability to survive combat however struggle to survive in a relaxed setting when they return home. When military return from warfare, they encounter numerous challenges as they adjust into ‘normal life’ outside of the military.

These challenges are commonly complicated by terrible events they have experienced while in the military. The experiences of the battlefield spill over into the personal lives of those that experience them.

These distressing experiences commonly take a substantial toll on veterans’ psychological wellness. Several veterans try to cope with these difficulties by ‘self-medicating’ with drugs and alcohol.

In this post, we discuss 9 reasons why a lot of veterans resort to drugs and alcohol, and after that we provide 9 steps veterans can require to reverse their fortunes now they are a part of ‘civilian’ life.

Meet George, A 34-Year-Old Veteran From Texas

George joined the military at the age of 17 and he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. George’s family had served in the United States military for many generations. George states he completed these deployments with a “chest packed with medals” and a Bronze Star. All these achievements appear like distant memories for George.

Like tens of thousands of veterans, George is currently addicted to a range of prescription drugs. George’s issues began when he was involved in a roadway crash when serving in Afghanistan. 

Due to the fact that George was a very educated radio and satellite professional, his company did not want him to return home and fully recover. Thus, George’s superiors pressed him into returning to active service prior to his injury being totally recovered.

To lower his pain, George started taking opiate pain relievers such as Vicodin. When George returned home from Iraq, his physicians continued to prescribe him with opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and Adderall. These prescriptions were authorized by army doctors. You will not be stunned to discover that George had come to be addicted to opiates. However, George didn’t actually comprehend what it meant to be addicted to opiates, at least not till he was contacted to serve in Afghanistan. When George showed up in Afghanistan he struggled to bring enough opiates to last him for the whole assignment. George started to really feel ill when he ran out of opiates. He was starting to recognize what it meant to experience an opiate withdrawal.

A medic identified George’s condition and prescribed him with some Percocet. When George returned home, his resistance to opiates meant he needed to consume a dangerously high dose in order to function. He tested positive for morphine when George was called up for one more assignment in Afghanistan. This is due to the fact that prescription opiates are turned into morphine in the liver. George was dishonorably discharged from the military because of this.

George lost everything. His spouse left him. He lost his home. He lost his job and he lost his pride. Even when George relocated with his parents, his drug use and irregular behavior ultimately forced his parents to kick him out. Considering that George has nowhere to go, he started to live in his vehicle. George regularly brushes with the law as a means of obtaining opiates and he completely expects to wind up in prison. All George is given by his government is a methadone ‘harm reduction’ program.

Indications A Veteran Is Addicted To Drugs Or Alcohol

Listed below we provide a number of indicators that might suggest you or your loved one might be addicted to drugs or alcohol:

  • Pulling back from loved ones and professional responsibilities.
  • When thinking about cutting down on drug or alcohol usage, experiencing anger
  • Needing extra drugs and alcohol in order to ‘function’.
  • Finding any reason to drink or take drugs
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol or drugs are not consumed

Why Some Veterans Abuse Substances.

We now provide nine reasons why some veterans wind up abusing drugs and alcohol:.

#1. Traumatic Events

Veterans typically experience trauma throughout their military profession, specifically when veterans carried out ‘combat duties’ during their time in the military. This trauma triggers mental illness such as anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For instance, around 1 in 4 United States soldiers returning from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan declared having a mental illness, while 1 in 6 of these soldiers exhibit symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD causes the victim to focus on thoughts and memories regarding the agonizing event they saw during combat. These events are generally violent in nature. The terrible experience is re-experienced via flashbacks, intrusive (unbidden) memories, and nightmares. Patients of PTSD also experience a sense of anxiety and depression that’s associated with their traumatic experiences. PTSD can go on even years after the terrible experience occured.

Symptoms of PTSD include:.

  • Lack of ability to encounter work.
  • Unexpected rage or violent outbursts.
  • Preventing individuals that remind the sufferer of the stressful event.
  • Lack of ability to do work.
  • Experiencing again the traumatic experience with flashbacks, nightmares and thoughts (” re-experiencing”).
  • Interfered with sleep.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Easily agitated and over-reactive to normal stimuli.

Numerous of these veterans self-medicate these symptoms with drugs and alcohol in order to ‘numb’ their pain. Veterans may also be given prescription medicines to treat their PTSD. These drugs typically include opioids and benzodiazepines. You hence won’t be amazed to discover that an addiction to these prescription drugs may occur.

#2. Sex-related Trauma

Although this is directly related to point # 1 above, we thought this was sufficiently essential to be provided its very own area.

The number of females serving in the military has greatly grown over the past thirty years. A number of these ladies report experiencing unwanted sexual advances by their male colleagues. US study reports around a fifth of women veterans experience PTSD as a result of a sexually disturbing experience.

The symptoms of PTSD are usually much more hostile for women veterans than for male veterans. Females are recognized to carry a genetically higher reaction to fear than guys. To get over these exacerbated symptoms, women veterans are more probable to abuse prescription drugs when contrasted to their male peers. Female veterans are four times more probable to abuse prescription drugs contrasted to the noncombatant population.

Moreover, experts claim military victims of sexual offense or rape are six times more likely to try suicide than their peers who have not experienced this distressing experience. In the US, it’s believed that female veterans are 6 times most likely to commit suicide compared to women that have not served in the armed force.

#3. Breakdown In Loved Ones Life

Many people struggling with PTSD will act negatively in the direction of their families. You won’t be shocked to hear this triggers loved ones breakdown when this is mixed with addiction. A disruption in domesticity fuels veteran’s drug or alcohol abuse.

#4. Forbidden Fruit And Newfound Freedoms

Moreover, the armed-services apply a zero-tolerance policy when it pertains to illegal drugs. This means several veterans may try illicit drugs when they are released from the armed forces since they view these actions as a kind of ‘forbidden fruit.’ These brand-new discovered ‘ flexibilities’ may swiftly develop right into an addiction to drugs or alcohol if this behavior is not moderated.

#5. Chronic Pain

Soldiers frequently experience chronic pain brought on by an injury endured throughout combat duties. Additionally, several soldiers experience chronic discomfort merely because they have endured an injury throughout a ‘freak’ accident whilst on deployment.

However, the military is all too happy to prescribe these people with opiate-based painkillers to control persistent pain. Opiate medicines are extremely habit forming. Due to this overprescription of opiate medicines, tens of thousands of veterans are now reliant on these drugs in order to function.

#6. An Unwillingness To Seek Out Help

Several veterans may hesitate to look for professional help for their PTSD or accompanying addiction since they may feel that doing so could somehow harm their good character, or maybe several will merely feel too self-conscious to choose assistance. A lot of these individuals may not choose aid until they have hit ‘rock bottom.’

#7. Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is shockingly common amongst veterans. When the brain is pushed against the skull, TBI occurs. This triggers mild-to-severe brain damage with nerve-fiber injury. Researchers expose around 10-20% of veterans suffering from TBI continue to experience drug or alcohol addiction as a result of their injuries.

#8. When Leaving The Army, Loss Of Structure And Routine

Addiction is no new concept for ex-service men and women. When in the armed services these individuals appreciate a very structured life and a real feeling of function. A number of these individuals take this way of life for granted. This means several of these people are shocked to discover the gap in their lives when they leave the armed forces. This void is frequently filled up by abusing substances such as prescription medications, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

#9. Decreased Ability To Make The Right Decisions

When a veterans leaves the military, they may no longer have a superior to make regular decisions on their account. Because several veterans become so familiar with ‘following orders,’ some of these people may have failed to establish their very own coping skills and feeling of profundity when it pertains to choosing activities that may affect their long-term health.

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How To Help A Veteran Who Suffers From An Addiction.

Numerous veterans caught up in the dangerous cycle of substance abuse may feel that drugs and alcohol are the only method to safeguard themselves against the symptoms of PTSD and various other stress and anxiety triggered by the desire to re-adjust within noncombatant life. Below, we aim to disprove this thinking by providing 9 recommendations to help you readjust into private life without abusing drugs and alcohol.

Some of these suggestions are basic and straightforward, and you are most likely already doing most of them already. Nevertheless, we want to remind you of the importance of this information and additionally get you brainstorming about imaginative ways you can aid yourself or your loved one.

#1. Always Act In A Peaceful And Non-Violent Way

It’s essential to not re-traumatize your loved one or developing an experience where there is more physical violence going on if your loved one endures from PTSD. All traumatic experiences are intense in nature. The person who suffers from PTSD is overwhelmed by the experience as if they should surrender their thoughts, feelings and beliefs in order to get by. To reverse this, you should try to develop a secure atmosphere that’s without violence.

#2. Sign Up With A Support Group Consisting Of Other Veterans

We encourage veterans to reach out to existing support networks catering to their needs. Think about creating one if a support group does not exist in your area. This means you may be supported by others that comprehend what you are experiencing. These people can help you get rid of feelings of isolation and isolation.

These people will recognize your pain on a level that other people do not. This support will make a substantial difference to your progress and likewise help you avoid substance misuse.

#3. Prevent Prescription Medications

If you suffer from PTSD, you will possibly have a hard time sleeping. To get rid of these symptoms, your doctor may offer you a drug classed as a ‘benzodiazepine’. You may be extra accustomed to trademarked benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax. This drug helps you sleep as it acts as a central nervous system suppressant. Benzodiazepines resemble the way alcohol affects the brain.

Benzodiazepines may assist your symptoms in the short term, but you run the risk of developing an addiction to these drugs. Once developed, benzodiazepines are one of the most difficult drugs to break.

Benzodiazepines fail to deal with the underlying emotional sources of PTSD and additionally cause excruciating withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to cease taking these drugs.

Despite these issues, the technique of prescribing benzodiazepines to veterans is remarkably common, particularly in the USA where the military has earned itself the title of being the biggest pharmaceutical customer in US history. Authorities in the United States Government reveal military spending on prescription drugs rose by more than 123% between 2002 and 2011, from $3 billion in 2002 as much as $6.8 billion in 2011.

#4. Participate In Deep Relaxation Techniques

Deep relaxation techniques are extremely reliable at treating mental disorder. These approaches consist of yoga exercise, tai and mindfulness chi. These techniques help you separate from your worries and permit you to see the temporary nature of adverse sensations and thoughts. This permits you to turn off exterior factors that sustain your mental disorder and an associated desire to take part in drug abuse.

#5. Encourage Your Loved One To Seek Out Help

The rate and effectiveness of a veteran’s recovery is hugely influenced by those closest to them. When someone close to you is dealing with addiction and/or serious disturbing stress and anxiety, sitting on the sidelines really isn’t a choice.

If you are the loved one of a veteran and you believe she or he is experiencing addiction or a psychological condition, it’s vital you try to urge your loved one to seek professional assistance immediately. It’s rare for the situation to fix itself and so your passivity is most likely unnecessarily lengthening your loved-one’s suffering. If your loved one resists the suggestion of seeking out help, it may be necessary to stage on intervention. To accomplish this, you must find the services of a professional interventionist. This person is normally a counselor or therapist who specializes in the treatment of drug misuse.

If your loved one resists the concept of looking for help, it may be necessary to phase on treatment. To achieve this, you should seek the solutions of a professional interventionist. This person is normally a counsellor or specialist who is experts in the treatment of substance misuse.

#6. Be Accepting Of Your Loved One

Offering your unconditional acceptance is one of the most powerful tools you can offer somebody suffering from PTSD. Express this to your loved one by telling him or her you care, that you love them and that you will suspend your judgment of him or her. When a veteran experiences addiction and/or severe traumatic strain, they will often find it tough to accept what they have done. As they struggle to accept this, there’s not much area for them to try different activities that may help them heal.

When you say to them: ‘I care and I accept you as you are today’, you provide your loved one sufficient emotional space to start to heal.

Repeat the words ‘I care and I accept you as you are now’. They may not think that someone could accept them for what they’ve been through and what they’ve done, yet echoing these words should get the message through in time. This will allow your loved one to see themselves through your eyes, and this acceptance will help them reverse their sense of self-hate and disapproval.

#7. Take Part In Robust Cardiovascular Exercise

Participating in robust cardiovascular workouts such as running, jogging, and biking is known to decrease mood problems and have a positive effect on your overall levels of mental health.

#8. Attend A Rehabilitation Clinic For Veterans

You might take into consideration participating in a residential rehabilitation centre providing a program specifically created for the demands of veterans if all else stops working. Before you attend this centre, specifically ask how the centre accommodates your necessities.

In particular, the centre must have the ability to show their ability to:.

Help you deal with extreme trauma caused throughout warfare duties. Provide you a program tailored to your particular experiences and addiction.Teach you coping skills that help you handle your issues without turning to drug misuse.Offer you group therapy containing various other veterans. Provide you specialists who understand troubles dealt with by veterans.An aftercare programme you can access in your town.

#9. Be Prepared For The Worst

If you are the loved one of a veteran, know that in some extreme circumstances of post-traumatic stress, the sufferer can come to be separated and hopeless. When this takes place, your loved one may reveal self-destructive thoughts and act out extreme behaviors. It’s essential to prepare for this possibility before it takes place to ensure that you are prepared.

React in a method that keeps them talking if your loved one reveals self-destructive ideation. Thank them for sharing their emotions with you and for offering you the possibility to help them make positive changes in their life so suicide does not occur. Getting your loved one to discuss their issues ought to help provide back a feeling of connection and a realization that they are not suffering alone.

Additional Resources



Veterans Aid

Help for Heroes

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