When it comes to substance abuse and the military, veterans are not immune to the problems faced by so many other Americans. Illicit drug use, such as marijuana or hallucinogens, may not be as widely abused, but heavy alcohol, tobacco and prescription drug use is a common problem for veterans or those who have recently returned from active duty.
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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan reported symptoms of a mental or cognitive disorder, while one in six reported symptoms of post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD). Both of these disorders are associated with substance abuse and can have lasting effects on the veteran and his/her family. Prolonged substance abuse can lead to Substance Use Disorder (SUD).
Symptoms of SUD include:
- tolerance - being able to drink or use greater quantities over time
- compulsive behavior - not being able to stop drinking or using in spite of the negativity that surrounds the substance abuse
- withdrawal - feeling sick and distressed when attempting to quit drinking or using drugs
Untreated substance abuse problems or Substance Use Disorder can cause a veteran to be at risk of mental disorders, hospitalization or even suicide. Only 38 percent of U.S. adults with diagnosable mental illness receive needed treatment but with effective treatment, 70 to 90 percent of individuals with mental illness achieve an improved quality of life. (mentalhealth.gov)
Some ways to help yourself through an addiction are to seek out:
- Veteran Support Groups
- Family Support Groups
At The Transition House, Inc., we provide veteran support groups as part of our Men's Residential Program and individual and group counseling at The Outpatient Center because we know veterans need more help with substance abuse than they might often get.