Why are Veterans More Susceptible to Substance Abuse? The Crisis of PTSD and Substance Abuse in Veterans.

20 Jun, 2023
ptsd and substance abuse in veterans

Is PTSD and substance abuse in veterans higher than it is in civilians? The short answer is yes.

More importantly, veterans are some of the bravest and most selfless individuals in our society. They have served our country with honor and distinction, often sacrificing their own safety for the greater good. Unfortunately, many veterans struggle with substance abuse issues after returning home from Military service. This is a serious problem that can have devastating consequences for both veterans and their families.

Furthermore, veterans are more at risk of co-occurring disorders such as PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, suicide and more.

As you can imagine, treatment for Substance usage disorders (SUDs) among American military veterans is complex due to the unique challenges faced by this population.

One of the biggest hurdles vets face is transitioning back to civilian life after active duty. This often leads to overwhelming feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety, which they self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Traumatic events, like combat exposure and multiple deployments, can lead to drug or alcohol use in an effort to self-medicate and numb the pain of their experiences. Alcohol misuse is a common issue among veterans, as it is easily accessible and can provide temporary relief from difficult emotions.

How Can Co-occurring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorders Create Problems?

Substance usage problems are a crisis among ex-servicemen and women. Studies have demonstrated that 8-20 percent of veterans experience SUDs more than civilians and are more likely to abuse multiple substances (polysubstance abuse). This alone should be a major public health concern.

People with co-occurring PTSD and SUD often face a variety of problems in their daily lives. The use of drugs and alcohol to cope with the symptoms of PTSD can make them worse, leading to changes in sleep quality, numbness, anger, irritability, depression, and a feeling of being on guard. This can lead to further avoidance of the problems that need to be addressed in order for treatment to be successful. Additionally, using drugs and alcohol as a distraction from the issues at hand can provide short-term relief but ultimately makes it harder to concentrate and enjoy life.

What Should I Do if I Think I Have Co-occurring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Substance Use Disorder?

If you think you have co-occurring PTSD and SUD, the first step is to talk to a health professional about treatment options. It is important to find a program and that can provide comprehensive care for both conditions. Treatment for both conditions should be tailored to your individual needs and may include psychotherapy, medication, or other forms of support.

Common symptoms of co-occurring PTSD and SUD include attitude and behavioral changes such as easily irritated and angered, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, reliving the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, feeling numb or disconnected from others, avoiding activities that remind you of the trauma, having trouble trusting people, feeling hopeless or helpless about the future, and using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions. If you have been through a traumatic event and have experienced these symptoms for more than three months, it is important to seek treatment for both conditions in order to improve your quality of life.

Mental Health Programs for Veterans

Treatment is beneficial for those who have experienced traumatic events such as combat or witnessing death. Risk factors that may influence the chances of developing PTSD include duration of exposure to trauma, personal characteristics such as age and gender, history of trauma, mental illness, addiction, added stress after the event, and social support.

However, access to treatment can be limited due to financial constraints or lack of availability of treatment providers in rural areas. Additionally, there is a need for specialized treatment programs that understand the complex nature of the dependency and mental health issues involved with veterans.

Treatments, Therapies, and Counseling

Treatments for substance use disorders (SUDs) among veterans are now available here at Sober Life.

We provide a range of treatments for substance use and mental disorders, including behavioral interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or motivational interviewing, as well as medical intervention when needed.

Military veterans have high rates of suicide, PTSD, and substance abuse due to the trauma they experience while serving in the military. Treatment for veterans with PTSD requires both substance abuse rehab and psychotherapeutic treatment to address the trauma from which the substance abuse stems. Evidence-based cognitive behavioral treatment and family therapy can help manage symptoms of PTSD and substance use disorder in order to improve quality of life for these individuals. It is important that we continue to care for and provide support for our veterans who are struggling with mental health issues such as PTSD and SUD.

The availability of these treatments in an outpatient setting can reduce the stigma associated with seeking inpatient treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse. You can get help while working, studying or living your life.

Dual Diagnoses and the Road to Recovery

Veterans with substance use disorders (SUDs) often have co-occurring mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and adjustment disorder. This dual diagnosis can lead to greater symptom severity and poorer treatment outcomes than those with a single diagnosis. At Sober Life, this is part of what we do. Addiction and mental health go hand in hand and just like the individuals affected, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Sober Life takes a holistic view of each of our patients and their symptoms, diagnoses and life situations.

In addition to mental health issues, combat veterans with SUDs may also have co-occurring medical conditions such as obesity, sleep disturbance, physical injury, and chronic pain which should be addressed during treatment. According to recent studies, 63% of veterans diagnosed with SUD also meet the criteria for PTSD. Therefore it is important for clinicians to recognize the complexity of dual diagnoses in order to provide effective treatment for these.

How do I access Sober Life’s services for PTSD and substance abuse in Veterans?

Sober Life in Orange County offers a wide range of services to help Veterans with substance use problems. All service members and Veterans can access crisis resources regardless of their discharge status or enrollment in VA health care. Speak to one of our counselors today to determine your level of coverage and care. (619) 304-3014

Treatment options vary depending on the individual’s needs and preferences but may include medications, different types of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention, and contingency management to help individuals address urges and cravings related to substance use.

Sober Life is committed to helping Veterans overcome their substance use problems by providing evidence-based treatments that are tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs.

The path to treatment is both support and access to evidence-based treatments for these individuals. At Sober Life, we understand the complexity of dual diagnoses and offer a wide range of services tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs. We are committed to helping Veterans overcome their substance use problems and improve their quality of life.

Honoring your service, we provide comprehensive care to help you conquer addiction and thrive. Join our dedicated veterans program.

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