Why do veterans abuse alcohol?
Veterans can end up abusing alcohol for myriad reasons, but often they include guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and an inability to adapt to civilian life, among others. Most problems with veteran alcohol abuse stem from untreated issues following the wartime experience.
What prevents veterans from getting treatment?
There are many obstacles preventing veterans from getting treatment for PTSD and alcoholism. From insurance policies to bad infrastructure in small rural areas, many times veterans in need of treatment are left behind. However, stigma and guilt are the main factors that interfere with the proper treatment of PTSD, insomnia, pain, binge and solitary drinking and alcoholism.
Veterans and Alcohol Abuse
Substance abuse among veterans is a growing problem, especially in the United States. Alcohol abuse is a common phenomenon among veterans. Many factors contribute to the problem: guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and an inability to adapt to civilian life, among others.
Alcohol and prescription drugs have become the primary drugs of abuse by veterans, while street drugs are not so popular, according to a Department of Defense Health Behavior Survey. When mixed, they can lead to fatal outcomes.
Veterans, PTSD & Alcoholism
Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common triggers of alcohol abuse in former combatants. This condition can be caused by many kinds of trauma, such as bad memories, abuse, or an injury, and can lead to extreme anxiety, stress, and nightmares.
Veterans use alcohol as self-medication to deal with their emotional pain and stress. Almost two out of every ten veterans with PTSD reports some level of a drinking problem. Most of them are binge drinkers, which can lead to property damage, drunk driving, or assaults.
Also, 60-80% of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD and alcoholism. Sadly enough, veterans older than 65 who drink and can’t cope with traumatic memories are more likely to commit suicide. Drinking and intoxication, however, help people deal with nightmares and anxiety only temporarily, and, in fact, end up prolonging these symptoms. That often leads to more serious health problems and even fatal outcomes.
Veterans, Insomnia & Alcoholism
It’s a fact that many veterans experience insomnia and use alcohol to fall asleep or improve their sleep patterns. Unfortunately, data shows, there are many cases of death caused by combining alcohol and sleeping pills.
Chronic Pain, Mental Health & Alcoholism
The traumatic events members of the Army have witnessed can cause not only anxiety and insomnia but can lead to many health problems and chronic pain. Physical injuries also can worsen the problems that veterans go through.
Pain, stress, and disabilities can lead to mental illness as well. Social anxiety, attention problems, paranoia, and depression often accompany drinking habits in veterans. Comorbid disorders are not uncommon and should always be treated, lest drinkers become dangerous for themselves and society.
Veterans, Their Families & Alcohol Abuse
There’s a scary impact that wars, and military service in general, have: family problems. Many veterans struggle to adapt to their life after they’ve retired and feel isolated from people who haven’t served in the military.
Young People in The Army
Young veterans are in danger of developing an alcohol addiction as they often report missing the adrenaline of their experience.
Previous history of abuse is also a factor. Statistics show that ¼ of all veterans between 18 and 25 have a substance use disorder.
Women in The Army
It’s been proven that women are at a higher risk of developing an alcohol addiction as they often experience sexual trauma in the army.
Veterans, Alcoholism & Treatment
According to the Army, only 40% of veterans with some emotional or physical trauma seek help. A stigma against therapy is probably the main barrier in front of adequate treatment, especially in rural areas. Therefore, encouragement to join a rehab is a must.
Different programs have been shown to be effective. Dealing simultaneously with PTSD and drinking should be the primary aim. Basically the first step is detox and then a therapy to learn to cope with symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and more. Behavioral treatments are one of the many approaches.
Also, dealing with guilt should be addressed. A study shows that killing in combat has led to PTSD and drinking in veterans who returned from Iraq. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 75% victims of a war trauma suffer from a drinking problem.
As there’s a link between drinking, antisocial behavior, trauma, and suicide, health care psychological treatment and clear policies should be made available to veterans.