Are Veterans Becoming Addicted To Opioids?

The number of veterans addicted to opioids is double that of the civilian population. Veterans are faced with pain from injuries in combat, challenged with mental illness symptoms, and justifiably frustrated with managing life with prescriptions not relieving the pain and mental anguish. In today’s opioid epidemic, it is very common for veterans to become addicted, mix alcohol with drugs, and find themselves struggling to find the answer to their misery. Treatment is the answer, but it isn’t that clear under the cloud of addiction.

Veterans Addicted to Opioids – The Statistics

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “From 2001 to 2009, the percent of veterans in the VHA system receiving an opioid prescription increased from 17% to 24%.” 

Throughout this quickly growing problem, now addressed as the opioid epidemic, death rates have skyrocketed to 40,000 a year or 115 a day from these drugs. Veterans addicted to opioids are among the many hooked on prescription drugs. As of 2019, 9.7 million people misused their prescription medications. Additional statistics include:

  • 10.1 million or 3.7% of Americans misused opioids over a 12 month period
  • Taking opioids for a period longer than 3 months, increases the chance for addiction 15 times – most people in acute pain rarely need more than a 7-day prescription
  • 9.7 million or 96.6% of opioid misusers use prescription pain relievers
  • Hydrocodone is the most popular opioid with 5.1 million misusers

Veterans are more likely to have chronic pain and symptoms from PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Experiencing these challenging conditions contribute to them self-medicating with prescription drugs and alcohol. 10% of veterans between the ages of 18 and 25 misuse prescription pain relievers compared to 5.5% of the civilian population in the US of the same ages.  

Why do Veterans Abuse Opioids?

Common risk factors associated with the military can be the reasons veterans addicted to opioids represent such a high percentage over civilian populations. Excessive traumas, difficult life relationships, being immersed in a different culture, and continual reassignments can cause irritation, frustration, and depression that isn’t easy to cope with.

Veterans addicted to opioids are faced with the following risk factors:

  • Multiple Deployments: adjusting back and forth from civilian life to military life.
  • Combat exposure: Alcohol is usually used to self medicate in combat, but if the soldier has been injured in combat and is prescribed pain relieving medications, addiction can occur.
  • PTSD and/or depression: Symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety run in high percentages among veterans causing them to use drugs to self-medicate.

Are Veterans Being Affected by the Opioid Epidemic?

Veterans are affected by the opioid epidemic in the fact that drugs are so easily obtained in civilian populations. While statistics show that fentanyl usage is up with the opioid epidemic, younger military men are higher users than women. Statistics state that military personnel found to be drug users can only reach a certain military clearance and that young men using opioids could be the reason that enlistment numbers are down with drug testing results. 

Signs that Veterans are Addicted to Opioids

If you are concerned about whether you or a loved one is a veteran addicted to opioids, there are signs and symptoms to look for. Veterans addicted to opioids may develop new habits that seem strange or out of the ordinary. When taking too many opioids, personality changes appear and a person can seem like they have a new priority in their life — drugs.

  • Changes in moods: addiction to opioids can produce increased irritability and a depressed mood.
  • Ignoring prescription guidelines: taking more than the prescribed amount of pills, needing refills before the date on the bottle.
  • Unusual behaviors: confusion, irritability, disorientation, disordered orientation or perception of reality, risky behaviors not seen before, withdrawal from friends and family, behavioral issues at work, and always needing money.
  • Becoming obsessed with finding more opioids: doctor shopping to get more prescriptions, asking friends to borrow some of their medications, and pretending to lose their pills and ask for additional prescriptions.

How to Help Veterans Addicted to Opioids

Treatment for veterans addicted to opioids and co-occurring mental health problems can range. Most plans include detox, residential treatment, outpatient programming, and sober living. The important step to take is to reach out for help. Talk to a doctor, mental health professional, or VA center to determine what kind of treatment you will need. Opioid addiction is a tough addiction to overcome, so finding the correct professional treatment is very important.

Addiction Help in Texas

Stop suffering and start living. If you or someone you care for is a veteran addicted to opioids, it is time to seek help. Contact us to talk to our staff of experienced professionals. We can help with a treatment plan for your specific addiction and mental illness symptoms with a roadmap for recovery. Call us or visit our admissions page to get started today.

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