Drug addiction affects millions of Americans every day. While this epidemic touches every corner of the country, drug addiction in veterans in particular, the issue is even more serious. More than 1 in 10 veterans who receive care at a VA facility are diagnosed with substance use disorder — often addicted to more than one substance.
It’s important to note that addiction is a chronic disease that requires specialized care in order to overcome. Because of the experiences that many veterans have endured, underlying issues that can lead to addiction may be even more complex. Sunrise Veterans understands the unique challenges that veterans face, and have created specialized veteran-focused programs that help service members effectively overcome drug addiction.
Veterans and Drug Addiction
Drug addiction has many underlying causes. But for veterans, there is an extra level of complexity in the nature of the causes that lead some veterans to drug addiction. The stress of daily military life, deployments, and even simply trying to reintegrate back into civilian life can all take a toll on a veteran’s mental health. For those who have experienced traumatic events like combat or military sexual trauma are even more likely to develop some sort of substance abuse problem.
Adding to the difficulties that many service members face is the zero-tolerance substance use policy within the military. This often makes it difficult or uncomfortable for veterans to seek help early on, out of fear of losing their rank or receiving other disciplinary actions.
The Link Between PTSD and Addiction
More than 2 in 10 veterans end up with a PTSD diagnosis as a result of their experiences in the military. While many end up with PTSD due to combat trauma, many men and women develop symptoms after experiencing military sexual assault.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Nightmares or night terrors
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
- Intense and inappropriate episodes of anger
- Self-destructive behaviors
Many veterans turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their mental health symptoms. Self-medication often turns into dependence and addiction. Veterans with PTSD often find it more difficult to overcome an addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can make their mental health symptoms even worse. Of the veterans who seek help for a substance abuse problem, more than 1 in 3 have PTSD. This makes PTSD sufferers nearly twice as likely as other veterans to abuse drugs.
Prescription Medication Addiction
When it comes to veterans and drug addiction, the most commonly abused substances are in fact prescription medications, rather than illicit drugs. Veterans with chronic pain due to service-related injuries are often prescribed pain medications like Vicodin or OxyContin, both of which are highly addictive opioids. Others may be prescribed anti-anxiety medications or sedatives to help them deal with PTSD symptoms. Often, veterans initially abuse these medications accidentally, by taking their medications more frequently or in higher doses than prescribed. This can very quickly lead to a veteran developing a dependence to these medications, which will eventually lead to a full-blown addiction.
Signs of Drug Addiction in Veterans
For many people, veterans especially, it can be difficult to see the signs of their own addiction. They may think that, because a medication was prescribed, it isn’t possible for them to abuse it. Or they may simply be afraid of the stigma that surrounds addiction. However, recognizing the sometimes subtle signs of addiction is important in getting the treatment that is needed in achieving recovery. Some of the common signs of addiction include:
- Avoiding spending time with friends of loved ones
- Giving up activities you used to enjoy in order to do drugs instead
- Caring little about your personal appearance, or even basic hygiene
- Feeling sad, tired, or anxious a lot of the time
- Significant changes in your sleeping patterns or weight
- Frequent and severe mood swings
- Worrying about the next time that you are going to use drugs
- Resorting to things like stealing or lying to get drugs
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you go too long without taking drugs
Begin Drug Addiction Treatment for Veterans
No matter what has led to your drug addiction, you can regain your sobriety with proper treatment. At Sunrise Veterans, we offer a range of treatment options that have been specifically designed to meet the needs of the men and women who have served in the armed services. Our veteran and drug addiction treatment options include:
- Veterans Detox
- Residential Rehab
- Aftercare Planning
- EMDR Therapy
- Holistic Therapy
- 12-Step Immersion Therapy
While in treatment for your addiction, you will also receive a full mental health analysis to determine if you are suffering from any underlying conditions like PTSD, depression, or anxiety. By treating both your addiction and your mental health concerns, Sunrise Veterans can help you to find total healing.
Contact Sunrise Veterans Health to learn more about how our veteran-focused programs can help you overcome your challenges and get on track to leading a happy and healthy post-service life.