Post-duty life is difficult for many men and women returning from being in military operations. The exposure to combat, physical injuries, traumatic brain injury (TBI), as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can make veterans vulnerable to drinking and drug use. Some veterans have returned home only to find out that they need to be sent out on deployment again.
There’s no question that substance abuse among veterans returning from war is a significant issue. According to a Department of Defense Health Behavior Survey, although illegal drug use has declined, prescription drug abuse and heavy alcohol use have increased. Prescription drug abuse doubled among U.S. military personnel from 2002 to 2005 and almost tripled between 2005 and 2008. It’s interesting to note that prescription drug use is also a major concern for civilian men and women across the country.
Yet, a 2008 survey shows that that military personnel actually have higher rates of prescription drug abuse than the general population. Only 5% of the civilian population in the United States is addicted to prescription drugs while 11% of military personnel has a dependence on or addiction to prescription drugs. According to an article in USA Today, doctors have been attempting to respond to the needs of military men and women by writing 3.8 million prescriptions for pain relief medication in 2009. This is four times more than the 866,773 doses handed out in 2001. The article pointed out that not only are the military returning to from battle wounded, sore, and injured, they are also returning with a substance addiction. Finally, the USA Today article also revealed that “an internal Army investigation report released Tuesday revealed that 25% to 35% of about 10,000 soldiers assigned to special units for the wounded, ill or injured are addicted to or dependent on drugs, according to their nurses and case managers.”
There has long been a relationship between the military and the use of drugs and alcohol that extends into history. For instance, the United States military has been historically related to the use of alcohol and drugs since prior to the 1830’s. In order to help reduce the impact of war, soldiers were given rum in daily rations and free cigarettes during World War I and II. They were also given powerful narcotics during the Vietnam War to help reduce the psychological effects they might have had after seeing death on the battlefield.
And that relationship doesn’t seem to be ending soon. From 2005 to 2009, the number of troops diagnosed each year with substance abuse disorders jumped 50% to nearly 40,000, the Pentagon says. And substance abuse hospitalizations increased from 100 troops per month in 2003 to more than 250 per month in 2009.
Fortunately, there is sober help for those veterans who are seeking drug treatment. For instance, the Salvation Army Haven offers residential treatment services to homeless disabled veterans with mental illness and substance addictions. They provide veterans with hot meals, a warm bed, case management, vocational training, employment assistance, evidence-based treatment groups, individual counseling, 12-step groups, assistance with benefit applications, skills trainings, psycho-education, money management, and peer support and advocacy.
Furthermore, those veterans who have been through a residential treatment program, such as the one provided by the Salvation Army, might also want to consider staying at a sober living home after drug treatment. Research has shown that sober living homes can serve as a bridge from a life with addiction to a life that is healthy and sober. Finding sober living can be difficult. However, having the right amount of support, especially long-term support, such as a sober living home might be the kind of experience that can keep someone returning from deployment clean and sober.
If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit. You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog