Addiction is a powerful, unrelenting disease that can affect anybody. However, some are at a higher risk of developing an addiction than others, particularly those who have suffered from traumatic experiences or battle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Military veterans are commonly exposed to these hardships and traumatic experiences as a result of their duty. Considering the unique perspective of veterans and the struggles they face each day, we want to emphasize how important it is to understand and give back to those that have given their all for others.

Understanding the prevalence of addiction among veterans and the driving forces that continue to facilitate addiction in the armed forces is the first step to creating an atmosphere of healing and sobriety for the betterment of the veteran community.

How Common Is Addiction in Veterans?

While addiction can affect anybody, veterans can be disproportionately affected by its destructive effects. According to the U.S. Department of Government Affairs, about 19% of veterans have reported binge drinking frequently, with binge drinking defined as having an excessive number of drinks in a single sitting and in a short period of time. However, even this number can be misleading, as there may be other service members who use illicit drugs or painkillers in a similar fashion.

The common traumatic experiences shared by military personnel increase the likelihood of the use of addictive substances, and PTSD can be a major catalyst for such substance use. Veterans may turn to addictive substances in order to push down symptoms of PTSD, such as to dull one’s senses to constant flashbacks, anxiety, and panic, or even to quell these symptoms long enough to allow one’s mind to sleep at night without nightmares of traumatic events. The U.S Department of Veteran Affairs also reports that about one in three veterans who struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD) also experience PTSD.

However, the prevalence of addiction in veterans is not just the result of a single factor. Understanding the unique journey of each veteran and how it relates to their experiences, perspectives, and needs is crucial in order to effectively address how addiction affects veterans.

Hawaii Island Recovery Now Accepts TriWest!
Hawaii Island Recovery Now Accepts TriWest!

Hawaii Island is expanding to accept TriWest, bringing a dedicated veteran program to our treatment centers. Call to learn more today at (866) 390-5070.

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The Unique Trials of Veterans

There are many reasons why the use of addictive substances may affect veterans, and while trauma and PTSD are commonly cited as major influences, they are not the only factors at play. Rather, there is a myriad of reasons why the use of drugs or alcohol may become prevalent as a result of one’s time in any branch or position in the military.

Facing Trauma

The harrows of wartime are not soon forgotten, and veterans who have seen battle or who have lost brothers and sisters in arms can carry these traumatic experiences with them each and every day. For those who have not been in the military, it can be impossible to comprehend what such an environment or difficulties these traumatic experiences may bring. Other veterans may carry physical traumas on top of these emotional scars, and processing such experiences is exceptionally complicated.

Using addictive substances may feel like the only respite one can get from these memories and feelings of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness. However, the use of drugs and alcohol will further exacerbate these struggles and have long-term detrimental effects on one’s health.

Multiple Deployments

Members of the armed forces may still be asked to return to the field despite these experiences, and multiple deployments can be both exhausting and cause these traumas to compound without offering time to process and overcome them. The physical and emotional fatigue of multiple deployments can create an even more complex net of experiences, perspectives, and loss that is exceptionally difficult to unravel.

Prescription Painkillers

Military personnel put both their bodies and minds on the line in order to carry out their duty, and physical injury sustained in the military can be common. Prescription painkillers may be used to help address this pain. However, their use can also be incredibly addictive, and veterans may carry these addictions home even after being honorably discharged. Addiction to prescription opioids or benzodiazepines can be common, even if used under a prescription. Especially when coupled with the use of alcohol, addiction to prescription painkillers can be dangerous and even deadly.

The Drinking Culture

Drinking is a common and accepted part of much of military culture, and it can be incredibly difficult to moderate one’s drinking when surrounded by such an atmosphere. As a result, it is common that veterans may return home without a way to gauge their drinking habits. This can lead to detrimental levels of alcohol use, resulting in binge drinking or addiction as veterans are faced with both the heavy use of alcohol and little outlet or peers with whom to share in their experiences.

Despite the reason why one may turn to drugs or alcohol, there is always time for help to overcome addiction for veterans. Reaching out and taking the first step toward a detox and recovery program is paramount for addressing one’s use of these substances while connecting veterans with understanding peers to share in the trials veterans face every day.

Addiction is a major ubiquitous concern among veterans, and the effective drug and alcohol treatment centers in Hawaii can help you today. Hawaii Island Recovery is offering dedicated veteran support to tackle the unique perspective and needs of the veteran community, bringing together peers and professionals to create a truly transformative approach to your sober transformation. Our dedicated alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, from detox and residential care to ongoing outpatient treatment, can help you transition into a sober life with a better sense of belonging and understanding. Overcoming addiction, trauma, PTSD, and more is incredibly complicated, and our trauma-informed treatment, coupled with our personalized approach to each individual, can help you create your own best recovery program. For more information on how we can help you, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique needs and goals, call us today at (866) 390-5070.