The use of addictive substances to cope with anxiety, depression, and stress is common among veterans of the armed forces. It is not unusual for veterans to self-medicate in an attempt to treat the traumas experienced during their time in service. Unfortunately, self-medication can quickly develop into an addiction. Therefore, addressing the prevalence of drug use among military veterans is crucial for effectively supporting those who have served their country. 

Deconstructing Myths

Veterans are often viewed as bastions of strength and role models in their communities. While many veterans appreciate being treated as heroes and heroines, the myth of the invincible veteran can be challenging for some to live up to. It is important to remember that veterans have their own struggles to deal with, especially when it comes to drugs and addiction. 

Despite the military’s zero-tolerance policy for illicit drug use, members of all branches are regularly exposed to drugs and their potentially destructive effects. Many veterans develop substance use disorder (SUD) resulting from their time in the military. More than one in 10 veterans seeking aid from the United States Veteran Administration meet the qualifications for SUD. Helping veterans overcome these battles can empower a healthier approach to the future.  

Understanding the Prevalence of Drug Use

There are myriad reasons why veterans may employ the use of addictive substances. For some, exposure to highly addictive opioids or other painkillers is often a direct result of a traumatic physical injury incurred during training or deployment. Others may continue to experience chronic pains long after they have been discharged and will look for substances to cope with these daily pains. 

Unfortunately, these pain-relieving drugs can also be highly addictive. The addictiveness of some pain-relieving drugs can compel the people who are prescribed these drugs to replace these drugs with illicit alternatives when their prescriptions run out. 

Drug use can also develop as a result of emotional factors as one copes with the ongoing emotional turmoils of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD.) The loss of brothers and sisters in arms, survivor’s guilt, the emotional impact of scars, and flashbacks to life-threatening events can all be common for veterans. 

The use of drugs can purport to quell these feelings and invasive thoughts, placating one’s mind for a moment of peace. However, this attempt to self-medicate can be short-lived and does little to address the sources of one’s traumas, leading to the continued impacts of trauma and the development of addiction. 

The Prevalence of Addiction in Veterans
The Prevalence of Addiction in Veterans

Addiction is incredibly common among veterans, and tackling the unique traumas and experiences veterans face is difficult. Learn more at (866) 390-5070.

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Identifying Drug Use in Veterans

Identifying the signs of drug use in veterans is the first step to getting the proper help. While each person will have their unique journey with addictive substances and their symptoms, some of the more common signs of drug use among veterans include:

  • Not following prescription labels
  • Self-isolation
  • Worsening of PTSD symptoms
  • Complaints of chronic pain or prescriptions no longer being effective
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideology
  • Inconsistent professional performance
  • Neglect of personal responsibilities or obligations
  • Mood swings
  • Strained personal relationships
  • Sudden financial problems
  • Changes in physical appearance
  • Disinterest in personal hobbies

With the unique struggles faced by veterans, identifying the signs of drug use and addiction as early as possible is paramount. While it is essential to get veterans struggling with SUD treatment as quickly as possible, it is vital that veterans receive treatment that addresses their unique needs. 

Finding the center for alcohol and drug treatment for addressing the prevalence of drug use in veterans is essential for addressing how trauma, pain, substance use, and addiction all continue to inform each other, even in civilian life. 

Trauma | PTSD | Treatment
Identifying Trauma, PTSD, and Addiction in Veterans

Veterans face a constant battle with trauma, PTSD, and addiction. Learn to identify warning signs by calling Hawaii Island Recovery at (866) 390-5070.

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The Importance of Dedicated Treatment

When fighting the battle against addiction, there is no replacement for professional treatment. While everyone benefits from individualized treatment plans, it can be especially beneficial to veterans to work with peers and specialists who understand their unique stressors and challenges. Trauma-informed treatment and a community of peers are part of the recovery process that can help one embrace specific and practical coping strategies for battling SUD. 

Of course, no two journeys through recovery are exactly the same. Although it is helpful to work with others who understand where you are coming from, it is also important not to lose sight of one’s unique needs. Just because one is a veteran does not mean they have the same needs or challenges as other veterans facing SUD. 

Whether one is struggling with SUD due to injuries sustained in training or combat or self-medicating to deal with the emotional trauma of deployment or the stressors of transitioning from military to civilian life, treatment, recovery, and sobriety are always possible. 

Veterans are at an increased risk for exposure to dangerous, addictive substances, and we at Hawaii Island Recovery understand the unique circumstances veterans face daily. From helping you take your first step into detox and residential care to connecting you with peers and educated, professional staff and peers, your time with us is personalized to fit your goals for recovery and sobriety. We believe in a holistic approach to healing, addressing the use of addictive substances and the experiences, mentalities, and lifestyle that accompany their use as we help you develop new routines, coping strategies, and spiritual practices in sobriety. Coupled with the beautiful atmosphere of the big island of Hawaii, we are committed to helping you develop your best strategies. For more information on how our Hawaii recovery center can personalize your time with us, call us today at (866) 390-5070.