Veterans are exposed to many addictive substances during their time in service and their transition to civilian life. While addiction to alcohol or drugs is prevalent across veterans, it is also possible that veterans may be struggling with addiction to a combination of substances.
The use of multiple different addictive substances in tandem is known as polysubstance use. Veterans can be uniquely exposed to the effects of polysubstance use as a result of their experiences. Addiction has lasting detrimental effects on veterans. Addressing the impact of polysubstance use is crucial for establishing healthy, sober civilian lives.
Understanding Polysubstance Use
The term polysubstance use indicates the use of two or more different substances in tandem. Often, individuals will engage in polysubstance use within a short time frame to feel the intense effects of multiple substances at once. Examples may include combining prescription drugs with illicit drugs or using drugs and alcohol together.
Any combination of addictive substances can indicate polysubstance abuse. Likewise, using addictive substances in this way has a number of destructive effects. Veterans of the armed forces require a personalized treatment program to overcome the intense effects of combining addictive substances.
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Polysubstance Use Among Veterans
Over one in ten veterans report struggling with substance use disorder (SUD). This acknowledges that the use of addictive substances among veterans is incredibly common. However, this statistic does not reflect the number of different substances that are being used. Unfortunately, veterans are exposed to various substances throughout their time in the military.
The drinking culture among military personnel can create unhealthy relationships with alcohol that individuals can carry with them well into veteran life. Not only is drinking on base an accepted part of the military culture, but it can also be romanticized. This makes it difficult to gauge one’s relationship with alcohol while embedded in a culture that celebrates its use rather than addresses the prevalence of addiction.
Chronic pains that come from an individual’s time on active duty – either from injury while on tour or as a result of intense training regimens that push one’s body to the limit – are common among veterans. These pains can continue to persist long after an individual is successfully discharged from service. As a result, the use of prescription and illicit opioids can also be common among veterans. However, these prescription painkillers can also be incredibly addictive.
Combining an active drinking culture, the use of illicit drugs in an attempt to self-medicate, and the use of prescription painkillers, it is common for veterans to engage with multiple addictive substances. However, the effects of doing so can result in intense and destructive physical and mental health consequences.
The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse
Using multiple substances together is inevitably problematic. The use of various types of drugs or alcohol at the same time can exacerbate the effects of each substance, leading to more intense and potent effects. This is incredibly taxing on the body as it is asked to process and break down multiple substances at once. Further, it carries a heavy physical toll on an individual’s liver, heart, and more. Nausea, vomiting, and much more are also common as a result.
The effects of polysubstance use on mental health can be just as severe, bringing overwhelming feelings of anxiety, depression, and panic. It can also contribute to the development of co-occurring disorders, especially among veterans.
Struggling with an addiction to multiple substances, along with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health disorders, is incredibly complicated. Engaging with multiple substances can make it difficult for veterans to address their emotional needs and overcome the underlying causes of these emotional challenges.
Polysubstance abuse can also result from continuing to engage with drugs or alcohol in general as an individual’s tolerance increases and they no longer feel the immediate effects of these substances. For veterans, this can feel as if they are opened back up to traumatic feelings and memories. As a result, they may seek new substances to placate their mind. However, this can often have the opposite of the desired effect and create a dangerous precedent in the development of addiction to multiple substances.
With the increased effects that result from polysubstance use, overdose is increasingly common and dangerous, leading to life-threatening situations. Navigating overdose on multiple substances can be exceptionally difficult. Similarly, learning to challenge polysubstance abuse often requires a nuanced, professional approach.
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Overcoming Polysubstance Abuse
Addressing the effects of polysubstance use and the needs of veterans in tandem is a demanding task. Professional help from a dedicated center for alcohol and drug treatment is needed to address the effects of polysubstance use as well as the unique traumas veterans face. Veteran programs are essential for connecting veterans to like-minded peers who understand and are prepared to challenge polysubstance use.
Personalizing each recovery step, breaking down the unique relationship with addictive substances, and having professional care to navigate detox from multiple substances simultaneously are all essential to an effective recovery. Dedicated veteran care coupled with a comprehensive recovery plan and medical support is crucial to overcome polysubstance use and to establish a healthy, sober, civilian life.
We at Hawaii Island Recovery know how challenging it can be to face the effects of polysubstance use. Our dedicated veteran program, coupled with trained, trauma-informed professionals, is equipped to help you address the physical, emotional, and spiritual effects of addiction. We offer an array of varied programs, each of which can be customized to your needs to find the best strategies for your unique journey in overcoming the use of any combination of addictive substances. From effective opioid addiction treatment to alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and much more, we are ready to help you overcome polysubstance use in your life. For more information about our rehab in Hawaii, call us today at (866) 390-5070.