Addiction is a devastating disease that can affect people of any age, race, education, and background. However, the use of addictive substances like drugs and alcohol can be exceptionally common among the veteran population. Being able to identify addiction in recently discharged veterans can be paramount for helping these loved ones transition to a fulfilling civilian life while overcoming the myriad of other challenges that veterans face every day. While each recently discharged veteran will have their own unique experiences and challenges to face, there are some signs that family and loved ones can look out for to identify and address potential addiction during the transition to civilian life.
The Stress Behind Substance Use
Military personnel and recently discharged veterans may engage with addictive substances for a plethora of reasons. Many veterans have additional stresses and challenges to overcome compared to their civilian counterparts. For some recently discharged veterans, the continued prevalence of on-base cultures can inform daily life, which may have encouraged or even celebrated a heavy drinking culture. Many recently discharged veterans may still feel connected to these cultures or still hold these perspectives of drugs and alcohol even while transitioning out of military service.
Other recently discharged veterans may be overcoming traumatic experiences, either from their time in an active warzone or line of duty or through potential on-base traumas like physical injury or military sexual trauma (MST.) Even while transitioning out of service, the memories of traumatic experiences can be fresh in mind, and feelings of isolation, survivor’s guilt, depression, anxiety, and more can all impact each recently discharged veteran’s use of alcohol or drugs.
Addiction in Recently Discharged Veterans
With the forces that may inform addiction in military personnel, identifying the signs and symptoms of addiction is paramount, especially as veterans begin their transition to civilian life. While each veteran will have their own set of needs and challenges, there are some common signs of addiction that loved ones and families should recognize.
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Increased Substance Use
Many veterans may increase their substance use upon their return to civilian life. Noticing an active drinking culture in an individual – or even if recently discharged veterans are continuing to engage with drugs and alcohol more and more, even after they transition to civilian life – can be a reason to reach out to professional treatment facilities for more information.
For some, this can be going to the bar more often. However, other recently discharged veterans may hide alcohol or drugs in their rooms or other personal spaces, such as cars or offices, or may only accept invitations to events if alcohol will be present.
Alongside an increase in substance use, noticing a recently discharged veteran loved one being either unwilling or unable to reduce their use of drugs or alcohol, especially after having their use brought up, can be a sign that professional treatment may be necessary.
Isolation Among Recently Discharged Veterans
For many veterans, feelings of isolation are common and debilitating. It can be common to fill these uncomfortable and intense feelings with addictive substances despite the consequences of such use. Between feeling isolated from others due to vastly different life experiences or changing cultures to feeling disconnected from family members following the effects of trauma and PTSD, it is common for veterans to feel alone in overcoming a variety of challenges.
Moreover, noticing social withdrawal in a veteran loved one, unwillingness to attend functions of community events, or even spending all of their time in the house or not interacting with others can all indicate the need for change, as well as the need to potentially open a discussion about the use of drugs or alcohol as a way to “fill” this feeling of emptiness or loneliness.
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Disinterest in Hobbies
Transitioning from military culture to civilian life is difficult and wrought with change. However, veterans who are not interested in personal hobbies or eschewing things they used to enjoy can indicate the possibility of substance abuse. Working with veteran loved ones to explore new hobbies upon their return to civilian life, or open discussions about any new interests, can all help illuminate any potential substance use or open a discussion about the options available to develop new hobbies in veteran life.
Changes in Personal Health of Recently Discharged Veterans
Neglecting personal hygiene or noticing a decline in physical health can also be indicators of potential addiction in recently discharged veterans. Likewise, an inconsistent sleep schedule or inability or unwillingness to tend to personal responsibilities, obligations, or workplace responsibilities can further indicate the need for change. Working with professionals at Hawaii Island Recovery can help families and loved ones address personal health needs and explore the role that drugs or alcohol may play in daily life.
Mood Swings and Angry Outbursts
Difficulty moderating emotions is common among recently discharged veterans. While for some, this can indicate that addiction and substance use are impacting their emotional health, others may experience these mood swings or angry outbursts as a result of trauma, PTSD, grief, and much more stemming from their time in service. However, regardless of how emotional turmoil is manifesting, professional treatment through Hawaii Island Recovery’s effective Hawaii rehabilitation is necessary to effectively address these challenges in veterans.
Identifying addiction and its effects on veteran life is the first step toward taking action. We at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to helping recently discharged veterans adjust to changing lifestyles, cultures, and more while overcoming the effects of trauma, substance use, and more in daily life. Each program is curated to the needs and goals of veterans to navigate transition stress and other challenges for a fulfilling civilian life, and dedicated trauma-informed therapies and veteran communities are blended for a holistic and effective approach to veteran healing. Overcoming addiction among veterans is difficult. To learn how our Hawaii rehabilitation programs can create a comprehensive approach to sobriety and healing for you or your veteran loved one, call (866) 390-5070.