Many men and women who are currently serving or have served in the United States military have struggled with addiction. It’s common for servicemen and women who have been in the midst of combat to struggle with co-occurring disorders, mostly related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Exposure to combat and trauma and being separated from loved ones for long periods can contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. Many of these individuals turn to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate, often resulting in addiction. Our drug rehab in Pennsylvania offers addiction treatment for veterans alongside a variety of other treatment options.
Substance Abuse in Veterans Statistics
Despite U.S. military policies set in place in 1986 to address and reduce the rate of alcohol abuse among military personnel, heavy drinking and alcoholism are common among servicemen and women. Policies are inconsistently reinforced, and heavy drinking has always been associated with partying, stress relief, and socializing, all of which are common among military personnel.
- According to a study on the prevalence of substance abuse among veterans, researchers found that veterans were more likely to drink (56.6% vs 50.8%) and report heavy drinking (7.5% vs 6.5%) than their non-military counterparts.1
- The same study also showed that exposure to combat correlated with alcohol use. Those who are exposed to higher levels of combat are more likely to drink heavily (26.8% vs 17%) and binge on alcohol (54.8% vs 45%).1
- Prescription drug abuse is also a common issue among veterans. Between 2001 and 2009, the percent of veterans receiving an opioid prescription increased from 17% to 24%, and prescriptions for other pain medications had quadrupled.2
- Veterans who suffered from PTSD (17.8%) or another mental illness (11.7%) were 6.5% more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than those without mental disorders.
These individuals often require medical detox and formal substance abuse treatment to recover mentally and physically. The Veterans in Recovery program at Clearbrook Treatment Centers Pennsylvania is designed to treat addiction in Veterans and help them transition back to their everyday life. Military personnel often experience trauma unique to their line of work and, therefore, require specific care. Our staff is equipped to administer medically monitored detox, inpatient treatment, and addiction therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy to veterans in our care.
Causes of Addiction Among Veterans
Addiction is a progressive and chronic disease characterized by the uncontrollable use of drugs or alcohol despite the harm they may cause. The most common causes of substance abuse in veterans include exposure to trauma, mental illness, and physical injuries.
Veterans with a history of multiple deployments and exposure to high combat levels are more likely to suffer from mental illness, most commonly PTSD. Many veterans with PTSD turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks of the incident, nightmares, and difficulties sleeping. Sexual trauma is also, unfortunately, common in the military. Male and female veterans who have experienced sexual trauma are also more likely to develop mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. These individuals may also rely on substance abuse to cope with the symptoms of these disorders. Clearbrook Pennsylvania offers a variety of special programs and therapies that can assist veterans during their recovery from both addiction and mental illness.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who witness or experience a traumatic event. This illness is characterized by disturbing thoughts and feelings related to the experience that persist long after. PTSD is one of the most common mental illnesses among veterans and military personnel. In a 2014 study involving 3,157 U.S. veterans, 87% reported exposure to at least one traumatic experience.4 In another study conducted in 2017 involving 5,826 U.S. veterans, 12.9% of them were found to have PTSD, a little over double the percent of people who have PTSD in the general population (6.8%).5 Since World War I and II, PTSD has been a common problem for servicemen and women and continues to be an ongoing problem that increases the risk of substance abuse and suicidality, which includes thoughts of or attempts at suicide.
It’s understandable why veterans would suffer from various injuries, especially in combat. As part of the recovery process, these individuals are often given prescription painkillers. The easy availability of prescription drugs in the military is another factor contributing to the high addiction rate among them. In 2009, military doctors prescribed around 3.8 million prescription painkillers to military personnel. In many cases, they would begin misusing these drugs or mixing them with alcohol and become dependent.
Long-term substance abuse can destroy a person’s life. We understand why veterans are more prone to developing an addiction, and that’s why they should have access to resources and care designed just for them. Our Veterans in Recovery program at our Clearbrook rehab offers medical detox, residential treatment, and different therapy programs that work in unison to address each facet of their disorders.