Veterans are the backbone of this country. These folks face things that no human should ever have to witness, so it’s not surprising that some of them come home with emotional wounds that they can’t overcome, not to mention injuries that keep them in pain long after they’ve healed.
Sometimes, veterans learn to cope with what they’ve been through, but at times, they struggle. Veterans may develop a substance use disorder for various reasons. First City Recovery Center has seen veterans walk through our doors, and this is the reason that we know that veterans need supportive resources.
Which Substances Are Commonly Abused by Veterans?
The rate of substance abuse among veterans is high. The substances veterans tend to use include alcohol and opioids. Several studies found that a large percentage of veterans develop alcohol use disorder. Sadly, 1 out every 15 veterans develops a substance use disorder. For this reason, we do our best to provide all the help and resources that we can.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is often a factor that contributes to the increased number of substance use disorder cases among veterans, but there are other underlying conditions as well. Part of what we do at First City Recovery Center is try to figure out what that underlying condition might be because it gives us a way to help you overcome your substance use disorder.
Veterans are falling victim to opioids, too, which can be dangerous. A study shows that the number of veterans dying from opioid overdose has been increasing for some time.
Why Do Veterans Develop Substance Use Disorders?
This is a hard question to answer because each veteran has their own story with their own set of environmental and genetic risk factors. Still, there are a few things that make this population vulnerable to substance use disorders.
Challenging Transition Into Civilian Life
One big challenge that veterans face is transitioning into civilian life. A soldier’s life is meticulously planned. Each soldier has their assigned role, specific daily duties, strict protocols, and clearly defined tasks. The army does not support ambiguity.
With a regular civilian job, a person’s life isn’t perfectly structured. There is far more ambiguity than many veterans are used to. There are often no clear instructions. Creativity is vital as is thinking outside the box, which are things that won’t come easy to a career soldier. Failing to fit in could create issues, and that kind of frustration can be too much for some folks, which may lead them to depression or to misuse a substance.
Mental Health Problems
Mental health issues plague some veterans. Some of them are quite common, like PTSD. This usually happens because veterans can’t overcome the trauma of war and the things that they’ve experienced, but there are other mental health problems that veterans may face.
This could include anxiety, depression, insomnia, and many other problems. Ideally, the veteran will get assistance from a mental health specialist, but this doesn’t always happen. Maybe the veteran isn’t aware of this resource, or maybe they aren’t ready to talk about what they’ve experienced. On top of that, these problems can’t be fixed overnight, and that also presents challenges when the issues are extreme.
Soldiers put themselves on the line, and the chances of something bad happening are high. This becomes truer the longer that the person serves. Some soldiers return with injuries, which could cause serious pain that won’t go away.
Chronic pain could affect more than just your body. People with chronic pain could become depressed or could have issues controlling their moods. They could become abusive and hurt those they love, which leads to feelings of guilt. Sometimes, the only thing that you can do is manage this pain by using some type of substance.
Ideally, the substance used to treat this pain is controlled properly by a doctor, but problems may still arise. People often develop substance use disorders because of the drugs that their doctors prescribe. And once these prescriptions run out, some folks turn to dangerous substances to self-medicate.
Where Can Veterans Turn for Support and Help?
Veterans need all the help and support they can get. If your loved one hasn’t developed a substance use disorder but is suffering from issues that could make them susceptible to one, then it’s time to seek help before things escalate.
For one, your family is a great support system, and it’s important to make that known. You can do this by simply talking to your loved one or allowing them to open up, and there are many resources you can take advantage of.
The Department of Veteran Affairs
The VA, or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, is one of the most important resources you’ve got. You can have your loved one call in and connect with therapists that should help with things like PTSD or any other mental health issues your loved one might have. The sooner that your loved one can learn to cope with these issues, the easier it’ll be to reduce the chances that they’ll develop a substance use disorder.
The VA also offers resources for veterans dealing with emotional issues or chronic pain or having trouble adjusting to society. They offer guidance and so much more. Almost anything that involves a veteran’s medical or psychological health starts with the VA, so you should be intimately familiar with it.
The National Helpline
SAMHSA’s National Helpline, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration call line, is another resource that’s important to highlight. This is a good resource for veterans or anyone else having trouble with a substance.
The folks here are trustworthy and experienced, and the service is anonymous. All you have to do is call the helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), and you’ll connect to folks who can give you some advice and refer you to the help you need. It’s completely free and is available 24 hours a day throughout the year.
Military Substance Abuse and Addiction Prevention
The Military Substance Abuse and Addiction Prevention, through Military OneSource, is another resource that focuses on military personnel and veterans. Being able to call into a resource that’ll understand what you’re going through is a big deal. Sometimes, only other people in the military will understand how you feel, and for someone who isn’t used to talking about their problems or feelings, this is a good place to start.
This is why a resource like this is so valuable. If you’re really afraid that a loved one might be suffering from a substance use disorder or is in danger of falling victim to it, then you want to make sure he or she calls the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. Your loved one just needs to follow the instructions to connect to someone who could help. There is no commitment when they call if they aren’t ready for treatment. This hotline is also a great place for gathering information and learning about the help available.
Counseling or Mental Health Treatment
Some of these resources are specific to what’s going on with a person, but you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to. Your loved one could seek the help of a counselor or psychologist. If the issue is emotional or psychological, then this could be a good idea.
You’ll have the power to choose who to work with, and you can always move on from a mental health specialist if you don’t feel like it’s a good fit. Of course, it’s best to contact a mental health professional before a problem starts, but if a substance use disorder has already developed, the therapist or counselor that you talk to will also treat it along with any mental health issues simultaneously.
A substance use disorder is hard to ignore, and it’s best to deal with it quickly and head-on. At First City Recovery Center, we’ve been helping people get sober for a long time, and we know that everyone is different. We have a number of treatment options to suit a wide variety of needs.
Local Veteran Support Groups
Sometimes, the help you need comes from others. A support group for veterans might be what your loved one needs. There are support groups for everything you can think of. If you know your loved one is dealing with depression or PTSD, then those are support groups you want to look for. If your loved one is trying to recover from a substance use disorder, you’ll want to look for a group that focuses on that.
The goal is to find a group of veterans who are dealing with something similar. Veterans support each other. Solidarity with your fellow soldiers is an ingrained part of military culture, so healing together with other members of the armed forces is pretty powerful. When you realize that you aren’t alone, you feel a little stronger and more capable. Healing starts in a safe space.
The Objective Zero Foundation is another resource that you should know about. It focuses on everything that a veteran might need help with, including things like suicide prevention and PTSD.
While this resource isn’t focused on addiction, it’s still helpful for other issues that veterans experience, and when veterans have their underlying mental health issues under control, they are far less likely to develop substance use disorder. Objective Zero even has an app, so it’s accessible whenever and wherever you need it.
The app connects users to other veterans for support but also to various resources, like wellness resources. The goal of the app is to make sure that veterans have a safety net at all times.
Let the Healing Begin
If you’ve looked into all these resources and you need more help or aren’t sure where to start, give us a call. First City Recovery Center has been able to provide all sorts of support and help to folks like you. With a no-obligation phone call, we can discuss all of our available treatment options.
If you have a solid support system at home and additional professional, academic, or familial obligations, our outpatient program could be the right fit for you. Veterans who need a more hands-on approach could benefit from our day programs, where you will spend at least eight hours per day five days a week at the center. You’ll spend your time at the center in therapy with a caring, professional staff who is invested in your recovery.
We are here to help with whatever you need and whatever your loved one needs. Our experienced and qualified team is here to make a difference in the lives of people who protect our nation.