Serving in the military, airforce, or navy is one of the most honorable and selfless things one can do for their country.
Deployment is also an onerous burden on the soldier, which is why some turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. It’s no wonder there are more rehabs for veterans than ever before.
Below, we’ll explore a few of the most common risk factors for veterans and substance abuse.
5 Common Reasons Veterans Develop Addiction
More than one in 10 veterans have been diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD). There are many reasons why so many veterans find themselves abusing drugs and alcohol.
Common reasons veterans struggle with addiction are:
- traumatic experiences
- family history
- co-occurring mental disorders
- adjusting to a new life
By exploring each of these common reasons, it may be easier to empathize with a veteran you are close to.
- Traumatic Experiences
Experiencing the harsh realities of combat isn’t easy. Many times, there is no time to appropriately reflect on trauma while deployed. Soldiers must bottle up what has happened and move forward.
The effects of traumatic experiences can linger with someone for the rest of their life. If feelings brought up from trauma are not dealt with properly, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is prevalent among veterans. For example, 30% of Vietnam veterans have experienced PTSD.
The signs and symptoms of post-traumatic effect disorder can look like:
- experiencing constant and extreme nightmares, flashbacks, and memories of past traumatic events
- a state of panic set off by a trigger related to the traumatic event
- self-isolating due to fear of being triggered
In order to drown these uncomfortable feelings, many veterans may turn to drugs and alcohol.
PTSD doesn’t just come from combat; there are cases of sexual assault, verbal abuse, and other traumatic events that occur in the military, all of which set off post-traumatic stress disorder.
In many cases, substance use disorders can be expanded on by the environment one is in. If you were brought up around people who constantly drank or abused drugs, then using substances will be internalized as a “normal” way to deal with life.
Military culture also promotes substance abuse. It’s not uncommon for soldiers to indulge in alcohol after a long day. Drinking brings a sense of unity, relaxation, and escape amongst a group of people who just experienced traumatic events.
- Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
Those who have substance use disorders often have co-occurring mental health disorders. Sometimes these are untreated, making a substance abuse problem worse.
Common mental health disorders amongst veterans are:
When dealing with two or more untreated mental health disorders, it’s easy to turn to drugs to cope. However, this will only worsen the problem in the long run.
- Family History
Studies show a familial transmission of substance use disorders as one of the main reasons people develop substance issues as young and older adults.
Veterans who have parents who dealt with substance use disorders have a higher chance of developing substance problems than those with parents who didn’t.
It’s important that veterans know their family history, even beyond their parents, so they can recognize potential substance abuse issues.
- Adjusting Back to Regular Life
In order to survive, soldiers have to change their mindset. Combat can be intense, highly stimulating, and traumatic.
Once they are back home, some veterans find everyday life not engaging enough. This makes them depressed, bored, or anxious.
Additionally, veterans may have trouble finding work, companions, or hobbies. To ease the transition and cope with so much change all at once, veterans sometimes abuse substances.
Addiction Treatment for Veterans
People often think of unwavering strength when it comes to military personnel. But these service members must bear great weight, and that weight can take a real emotional toll.
If you are a veteran with a substance use disorder, there are specific Connecticut drug rehabilitation centers that can help with recovery. Explore your options for treatment and get started with addiction counseling. With the right tools, you can recover from addiction and mental illness.