American soldiers serve tirelessly to protect and defend our country, but the mental, emotional, and physical toll can often carry a heavy burden when they return to civilian life. Most people are aware of the staggering rates of PTSD affecting our troops. Something much more unspoken is the prevalence of addiction among American veterans.
Addiction can happen to anyone, but for soldiers coming home from overseas, the combination of isolation, war trauma, elevated stress levels, and excessive drinking, addiction and alcoholism rates have continued to rise. With the opioid addiction at an all-time high, addiction rates among service members in Ohio have continued to rise with it.
According to the National Institute of Health, studies show that deployment and combat exposure results in higher rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking. For many soldiers, drinking and taking medications are a way to cope with the stress and challenges of deployed life, not to mention those stresses of adapting after coming home.
Why Are Veteran Addiction Rates So High?
It’s no secret that the stress and chaos that deployed soldiers go through are traumatic and life-altering. The changes and sacrifices made can create huge gaps in the lives of them and their loved ones. Many veterans have families, children, and pets that they leave behind to serve.
This creates an environment where soldiers rely on each other, and often rely on alcohol and drugs to get them by. There are ever rising rates of PTSD among American soldiers and veterans. Studies have also reported increased rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Veterans in Ohio are no different, and although there are endless amounts of programs, organizations, and services in Ohio for Veterans and their families to get the help they need, it can still be difficult to do it alone.
- 7.1% of veterans developed substance use disorders during the period of 2004 to 2006 according to SAMHSA
- 2 out of 10 veterans who develop PTSD progresses to Substance Use Disorder
- 1 in 6 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan experience PTSD
- 1 in 4 veterans develop a mental health disorder
- 20% of female veterans that served in Iraq or Afghanistan developed PTSD
It can feel taboo for these hardened, trained, and professional veterans to seek help for the mental and physical upheavals they experience after a war, so many of them struggle in silence. This is where the drinking and drugging can often take a harder turn, as it becomes the only source of comfort that many veterans used to dampen the pain and unrest in their minds and bodies.
Alcoholism In Veterans
Sure, almost everybody likes to relax and have a drink after a stressful day, but how much is too much, and how often is too often? When the boys get together, drinking can often be the reason for the party, the topic of conversation, the icebreaker, and the glue that holds it all together. Throw in a Browns game, and you’ve got yourself a nice Sunday.
However, when drinking is used as a band-aid over physical pain, feelings, memories, guilt, and remorse, it can create a problem in the lives of the drinker, and those who love them.
- In a study of 600 U.S. Veterans, 39% of them screened positive for alcohol abuse
- Research indicates that as many of as 43% of active duty soldiers reported binge drinking within the past month
- According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1 in 10 soldiers returning home from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with alcohol and drinking problems
Many veterans shy away from getting help for their drinking from shame, stigma, or long lines at VA health facilities. Not to mention, many VA hospitals have reported high-cost rates and poor service.
The funny thing about alcoholism is that no one ever assumes it will happen to them. What starts out as that casual Sunday can turn into daily drinking and a rapid decline in physical and mental health. Many veterans report struggling with PTSD, but that drinking alcohol helps to drown it out. On the other hand, veterans report struggling with acclimating back into daily life, feeling isolated, and detached from their home life after deployment. Alcohol often becomes a crutch for living back on home soil.
Many soldiers and veterans experience physical and mental trauma after deployment, which can result in a pretty hefty list of prescription medications. Soldiers most often require medications for:
- Insomnia and Nightmares
- Chronic Pain
- Nerve Damage
- Brain Injuries
More often than not, these medications can be addictive, despite being prescribed by a doctor. When they work, it becomes even easier to abuse them. For people with PTSD, their medications can often become the only protection against them and the outside world. The flashbacks, hyperarousal, uncontrollable anxiety, and relationship problems fuel the difficulties that arise when returning to civilian life.
Many veterans who develop an addiction to their medication will, over time, require something stronger to get the job done. This is why so many veterans in Ohio are joining into the ranks of those who struggle with an opioid or heroin addiction. This is especially true when these veterans have become addicted or dependent on their prescription opioid medication to alleviate the pain from sustained injuries from war.
Help Is Available
For veterans in Ohio and around the rest of the country, help is available for you. Life doesn’t have to be lived on the edge, and you don’t have to struggle silently with addiction or alcoholism. If you are worried that you have gone too far, you can always come back. Ohio Addiction Recovery Center can help you get back on your feet and back in the game. Through certified and proven therapeutic modalities, a holistic-based program, and learning healthy ways to cope with trauma, anxiety, and depression, we can help you end your pain.
“We must fight for peace as bravely as we fought in war” – Lal Bahadur Shastri