According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, one in ten soldiers seen by the VA after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have a problem with alcohol or drug use. Of these, almost one in three is also suffering from PTSD. Alcohol use disorders are the most prevalent, partly because drinking is often done in an effort to relieve stress or socialize. Prescription drug abuse is also on the rise, because opiods are increasingly described to veterans for chronic pain.
Substance abuse can develop while on deployment, in reaction to the stressful conditions, or after returning home and attempting to cope with injuries or the difficulties inherent in reintegration. It can be difficult to reconnect with loved ones or make new friends, as a veteran might feel that civilians are unable to understand what they’ve been through. It can also be difficult for those returning from service to find a job. One study by the VA found that 30 percent of young veterans faced unemployment after coming home. It has also been reported that veterans make up a large percentage of the homeless population in the U.S., and 21 percent of veterans in treatment for substance abuse were homeless. All of these factors can lead to someone turning to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate emotional pain.
Veterans who have PTSD or other mental disorders along with a substance abuse problem are often only treated for one condition. Some practitioners believe that the substance abuse should be addressed first, which leaves many sufferers unable to seek treatment or never referred to someone with experience in PTSD. This can lead to a greater likelihood of relapse, as people turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to deal with the symptoms of PTSD.
Help is available both through the Department of Veterans Affairs and private programs. The VA’s Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program provides care for qualified veterans, including medical detox and psychiatric care. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find help through the VA. You must already be enrolled in their health system, and those who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible. Some veterans who are eligible may still prefer to look for help in the private sector. Not only can there be long wait times for care at VA locations, but some people simply don’t live near a facility. Thanks to the use of technology called telemental health, it is possible for some veterans in isolated locations to connect with therapists via telephone or videoconferencing. For those who live in more rural areas, however, this may not be possible due to the poor quality of internet and cell phone service.
If you are ineligible for help from the VA or would simply prefer to find help from other sources, Asana Recovery provides a safe, comfortable environment to come to terms with the causes and motivations for your addiction. We offer medical detox and outpatient and inpatient treatment, and our staff can assist you with both medication and therapy. When you’re ready, call us at (949) 438-4504, and we’ll be here to help.