The Struggle of Substance Abuse in the Military

Living in the United States, armed forces have become a crucial part of the country’s safety, services, and protection. Hundreds of thousands of men and women enlist and work for the sake of the country every year, making lives more comfortable for civilians at home.

However, no one said life in the military was an easy one. Those who serve in the military, as well as military veterans, are susceptible to physical and psychological trauma. It is estimated that 12% of Gulf War veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while 30% of Vietnam veterans deal/dealt with PTSD at some point in their lives.

These stressors of military service can lead to problematic or even dangerous behavior—including substance abuse. What are the causes? What are the commonly abused substances? And what can be done about it?

Martial Traumas

Serving for branches in the military, such as the Army, Navy, or Air Force, can bring both physical and emotional damage. This includes witnessing graphical violence, life-changing injuries, such as loss of limbs or tactile senses, living in constant states of fear, loss of friends or family, or even sexual harassment and assault.

These traumas can be stirred up in daily life—even after service in the military is over—with reminders of these stressful times and moments. This includes loud noises that are reminiscent of explosions, or of people and locations that may remind a veteran of a past experience.

This constant exposure to stress can push victims into depression, anxiety disorders, or even suicidal thoughts and attempts as they re-experience the trauma and desperately search for an escape. In this case, drugs can relieve a soldier’s stress, but in turn, they may become reliant on the substances for comfort and safety.

Common Substances

While military enlistment is strict about drug and alcohol use and drug testing is common, this does not mean soldiers aren’t able to sneak in illegal drug abuse, nor does it mean veterans post-service are disciplined to avoid drugs.

Alcohol is among the most common and accessible options, with soldiers adopting binge drinking habits. Additionally, these alcoholic habits can influence underage members of the military, which leads to entirely different problems.

Another common drug habit is smoking, which can not only create an unhealthy addiction but health problems in the lungs and throats. This can make for physical complications in the military, particularly for those more involved with combat and other hands-on activities.

Among the less discussed substances, however, are prescription and opiate drugs. Since they may be needed by individuals, they can be easier to obtain and abuse than other substances. Prescriptions can also contain illegal compounds, making the abuse of heroin or marijuana all the more accessible.

Overcoming Substance Abuse and Trauma

Substance abuse in the military has become a common issue, but precautions and practices have been put in place to help and assist victims of addiction. Some branches of the military—such as the Army—have placed limits on how long certain prescriptions and opioids can be kept.

Numerous counseling and treatment programs have been implemented for those who serve in the military as well as veterans—for PTSD, anxiety, addiction, and other common mental and physical struggles. Serving for our country’s freedom should not come at a hefty price. Help is readily available for many.

If you or a loved one has performed military service and is struggling with substance addiction, contact a local Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Recovery Program or our Long Term Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.

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