Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Military Populations
Military service features many unique lifestyle elements and challenges that play a significant role in health care trends, especially in mental health and substance abuse. Both active duty and veteran military service members have a risk of developing substance use disorders, especially those deployed to combat. Individuals who were deployed to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq showed significantly higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse disorders than civilian populations. Cultural factors also play a role in alcohol and drug abuse rates among military personnel.
Branches of the Military That Report the Highest Rates of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues
Drug and alcohol dependence and mental health disorders are disproportionately more common in the Army and Marine Corps compared to other military branches. This may be due to culture rather than the individual troops themselves. Through Marines’ self-reporting, they have the highest instance of binge drinking, nicotine use, and alcohol dependence. They also had the highest rates of anxiety and depression. One study found that the Army had the highest rates of prescription drug abuse and PTSD. Even after adjustment, service members in the Navy, Marine Corps, and Army had nearly two to three higher instances of multiple mental health conditions and drug and alcohol abuse behaviors than in the Air Force.
Why Substance Use and Mental Health Conditions Are More Prevalent in the Marine Corp and Army?
Trauma from combat is a big reason many service members turn to alcohol or drug abuse. PTSD has been found more prevalent among those in the Marine Corps and Army when compared to other branches. They also have higher rates of both depression and anxiety disorders. Service culture also plays a role in higher alcohol and drug use rates. Access to inexpensive alcohol on military bases and workplace culture encourages binge drinking and underage drinking. There is also a stigma regarding mental health treatment. One study found that sexual assault and harassment is also a risk factor affecting mental health and substance use among service members. Prescription pain medication scripts and use are also rising due to combat-related injuries and strain from extreme physical exertion. This has resulted in prescription drug misuse and opioid use disorders.
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The Mental Health Substance Abuse Connection
The connection between drug and alcohol use disorders and mental health disorders is well known. Many people with mental health disorders turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate their symptoms. Although they can find temporary relief, abusing substances can make symptoms worse in the long run. The person may then turn to use more often to relieve the worsening symptoms. Continuous heavy alcohol and drug use can cause physical dependence and addiction. There is also the case that substance use disorders cause mental health disorders as well.
Treatment Options for Substance Abuse and Mental Health
PTSD and traumatic events can cause many service men and women to develop a drug or alcohol use disorder. Luckily, with adequate addiction treatment, anyone can achieve long-lasting sobriety and therapy for mental health disorders. This is considered a co-occurring disorder when substance use disorder and mental health issues are simultaneously present. Those seeking help for co-occurring disorders must get treatment from a recovery center with a dual diagnosis treatment program. This program aims to treat both disorders concurrently, giving the patient the best chance of natural addiction recovery.
If you or someone you love is dealing with alcohol or drug addiction, don’t hesitate to get in touch with WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today. We offer a variety of programs and levels of care, including dual diagnosis treatment, to fit every individual’s needs. Through individualized treatment programs, we can provide the support needed to break the hold of addiction.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.