The Truth About Substance Abuse and PTSD in Veterans

by | Last updated Dec 27, 2021 | Published on Nov 7, 2019 | Addiction | 0 comments

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Thousands of troops become military veterans within their communities every year. These military personnel return to their day-to-day lives. As stated by the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.5 million veterans aged 17 or older (6.6 percent of this population) had a substance use disorder in the past year. 
Addiction and PTSD often go hand in hand with military personnel. They may use it as a way to self-medicate their pain. We must recognize that there is an issue here. Veterans are expected to go back to their daily lives with no guidance or supervision. Seeking treatment for addiction and PTSD is not only recommended, it’s a must.

PTSD with Veterans: The Alarming Truth

PTSD is a prevalent disorder amongst the military. After all, they experience many traumatic events that often aren’t worked through. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans varies depending on the particular conflict they were involved in. 

Let’s Get Down to Statistics

Did you know that about 11 to 20 out of every 100 veterans (or between 11 and 20%) who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year? About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans (15%) were presently diagnosed with PTSD when the most recent study of them was done in the late 1980s. 
Ken Yeager is the director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at The Ohio State University. Yeager states that these statistics reveal to us a lot about the conflicts these veterans came from. For example, these populations may have higher rates of PTSD than veterans returning from World War I and World War II. This is partly due to the nature of warfare changed significantly since the mid-20th century. 
Today’s armed forces experience new pressures and challenges. This means that it’s harder for these veterans to find somebody they can relate to. Yeager, makes a good point saying:
“We have a volunteer army, which is a good thing, but it’s also a bad thing in that people don’t have a lot of people to relate to. They don’t have many people to speak to about their experiences, and so when they come back, they’re more hyper-vigilant, they have trouble trusting, they attempt to control situations, they shut down and become less open and have less intimacy just in conversations with others, because others can’t really understand what they’ve been through.”
Another problem that many veterans face is returning to a high-stress environment. Particularly, when it comes to their job. Yeager also states that, 
“Many of our current law enforcement and police and firefighters are veterans. They’re continuing in a wonderful tradition of giving to society and helping society, but also in a remarkably difficult way, with its challenges for PTSD.”
The rules of engagement for law enforcement and emergency personnel are different from those of war, and sometimes “it’s very difficult to know what’s appropriate and what’s not. What was appropriate in one setting might not be in another,” and that can lead to further issues.
Suicide rates are also increasing amongst veterans. The suicide rate was 1.5 times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults, after adjusting for age and gender in 2016. It’s important to alleviate symptoms of PTSD before they worsen. We must work together to prevent these tragedies from happening. 

Veterans Battling Addiction

The stress of deployment is a major factor that goes into how addiction starts for veterans. In such high-pressure situations, it can be overwhelming to deal with intense emotions. So how does one work through all these emotions? 
That’s why deployment is associated with smoking initiation, unhealthy drinking, drug use, and risky behaviors. Zero-tolerance policies, lack of confidentiality and mandatory random drug testing that might deter drug use can also add to stigma. Those who wish to seek treatment may feel largely discouraged.
For example, half of military personnel have reported that they believe seeking help for mental health issues would negatively affect their military career. If you or a loved one is battling addiction, it’s okay to admit it. You can feel better and treatment will help you get there.

The Statistics Don’t Lie

A study took place in 2017 studying the National Survey on Drug Use and Health data. It found that, compared to their non-veteran counterparts, veterans were more likely to use alcohol (56.6% vs 50.8% in 1 month), and to report heavy use of alcohol (7.5% vs 6.5% in 1 month). 
Did you know that 65% of veterans who enter a treatment program report alcohol as the substance they most frequently misuse? Even more alarming, it is almost double that of the general population. 
Over 9% reported that they experience severe pain, compared to only 6.4% of non-veterans. This puts our veterans at a higher risk for accidental opioid pain reliever overdoses. Between 2001 to 2009, the percent of veterans in the VHA system obtaining an opioid prescription increased from 17% to 24%.
Also, the overall opioid overdose rates of veterans increased to 21% in 2016 from 14% in 2010. However, the overdose increases were mostly from heroin and synthetic opioids, and not from opioids taken for pain relief. 

You Can Get Help Today

It’s time for our veterans to receive the help they deserve. At Amethyst, we provide a variety of treatment programs. We tailor our treatment to each patient because no one person is the same. We also work with Tri-Care Insurance for In-Network treatment options. From pain, comes a lot of growth. Let us help you see your potential. 
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to our dedicated staff. You can call us at (855) 500-3609 or contact us here to begin seeking treatment today.

References:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-military-life
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-use-military-life
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1969/Spotlight-1969.html

Written by: newamethyst

Written by: newamethyst

The Amethyst Recovery Center Editorial team is comprised of individuals who are passionate about addiction recovery. We hope to contribute to the recovery journey through personal stories, insights, and informational content pieces.

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