Veterans and Substance Abuse: How We Can Help

Research shows that roughly 10% of all military veterans in the U.S. have a diagnosable alcohol problem. In addition, almost 20% of the nation’s veterans have a drug- or medication-related substance problem. Veterans, as well as active servicemen and servicewomen, share many addiction risks with other adults. In addition, they have significant risks that are much less common in the general public. How can you support those affected? By helping them find customized treatment for active military personnel and veterans. 

Veterans and Substance Abuse: Drug and Alcohol Problems

In the U.S., two kinds of substance problems are officially defined. The first of these problems is addiction. The second is a pattern of abuse that limits your everyday function. Both problems are grouped together as illnesses called substance use disorders (SUDs). 

Alcohol-related SUD is the most common substance problem among America’s active military personnel. However, comparisons to the general population are mixed. Active-duty personnel drink heavily less often than other adults. Still, they’re more prone to alcohol binging. Military veterans are more likely to drink than the general population. They’re also more likely to consume alcohol to excess.  

Drug use among active military personnel may be less common than it is among other adults. However, for various reasons, these personnel may not accurately report their drug consumption. Veterans are generally more honest about reporting their use of illicit drugs. Marijuana is the drug most frequently used by veterans. However, the abuse of prescription drugs is arguably a bigger concern.  

Veterans and Substance Use Disorder: Elevated Risks

Well over half of all U.S. veterans affected by a SUD also have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In some cases, substance problems precede a PTSD diagnosis. However, many veterans first experience problems with PTSD. 

What explains the connection between PTSD, veterans, and substance use disorder? People with PTSD experience a wide range of distressing symptoms, including:

  • Unwanted memories of past traumas
  • A powerful need to avoid these kinds of memories
  • Higher exposure to negative emotional states
  • An overactive fight-or-flight response

To ease the impact of these symptoms, some veterans turn to alcohol or drugs. Over time, the use of this coping mechanism can lead to an SUD diagnosis. That’s true for veterans and drug addiction. It’s also true for veterans and drug abuse. In addition, this fact applies to veterans affected by alcohol-related problems. 

The risks may also flow in the other direction. In other words, substance problems can contribute to a PTSD diagnosis. This happens when drug or alcohol problems destabilize your mental health. The same issue can also lead to other mental health concerns. 

Treating Affected Veterans 

How is the subject of veterans and substance abuse treated in recovery programs? For the most part, veterans and active-duty personnel benefit from the same treatments as other adults. Depending on your situation, primary options may include:

  • Behavioral therapy 
  • Medication
  • Combined use of therapy and medication

However, veterans may also need additional help. That help often comes in the form of trauma therapy. Therapy of this type is specifically designed to help you cope with past traumatic experiences. It also helps reduce your risks for future trauma exposure.

Find Out More About Substance Abuse Treatment for Veterans at Tree House Recovery

Have more questions about veterans and drug abuse or veterans and drug addiction? Get the answers you need at Tree House Recovery. We can also answer any questions you may have about veterans and alcohol-related problems.

Tree House Recovery features dedicated treatment resources for veterans and active military personnel. And our holistic, outpatient approach makes it easier to fit effective treatment into your current daily routine. Ready to get started? Just call us today at 910.812.1728 or contact us through our online form

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