Causes of Drug Abuse Among Veterans

Veterans’ drug abuse is not only a serious issue for the military but also the country and individual communities nationwide. Millions of people struggle with substance use disorder, but military service members and veterans face unique risk factors that may leave them vulnerable to drug abuse. Serving in far-flung parts of the world away from their families–who often face unique pressures of their own–and experiencing the trials and traumatic events that often accompany military service are just a few of the reasons why some military personnel might turn to drugs as a means to cope with intense stressors. 

WhiteSands offers a wide range of drug addiction treatment programs. We develop plans for individuals as well as for specific population demographics like military veterans. Even though drug addiction is a chronic condition, it can be managed successfully, but treatment is typically the key. We help veterans identify the triggers of their drug abuse and then develop strategies for managing those triggers in healthy ways. 

At WhiteSands, we rely on evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, both forms of psychotherapy. Working one-on-one with a therapist targets some aspects of the addiction. We also feature holistic and some alternative treatments that target other aspects of addiction and overall health. Drug abuse is a serious problem, but once that abuse turns to addiction, the dangers to one’s well-being only increase. Chronic drug abuse will lead to the deterioration of mental and physical health. With treatment, veterans can develop new lifestyle habits that contribute to healthy patterns of life designed to support mental and physical health. 

Let WhiteSands help you transform your life for the better with our substance abuse treatment programs. We treat veterans with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our rehab center features experienced addiction specialists and clinicians who offer empathetic care. Find out why WhiteSands is a leading drug treatment center that serves special populations like veterans. 

The Unique Stresses and Pressures of Military Service

Veterans and military service members have faced unique pressures and stressors that can contribute substantially to their drug abuse habit. Being away from their homes and families for long periods is a challenge that military service members face. Not only is it immensely difficult to miss one’s spouse or close family members, but they often miss important milestones in their loved ones’ lives or are overseas when their family may be facing a crisis. 

Veterans and many current military personnel have experienced or witnessed horrifying acts of violence during combat or other military missions. The stress from these events can weigh heavily on their minds. Experiencing multiple traumatic events can increase the risk of developing conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to help them cope with the psychological trauma of stressful events. 

Although military members have important jobs to do, they may not always enjoy the tasks they’re assigned. They don’t have the option to ‘quit’ a job and move on like civilians do. They often have to continue to serve in roles that they’d prefer not to. This adds another layer of stress to their lives. Some military members and veterans may also be afraid to seek help for their mental health condition and, instead, turn to drugs as a means of self-medication. Drugs can complicate an already complex situation. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Abuse

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a complex mental illness that is caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Individuals with this condition may experience vivid flashbacks of the traumatic event or events that make them feel as if they are reliving the experience. It’s not uncommon for individuals with PTSD to experience powerful anxiety, panic, and depression. Other PTSD symptoms include mood swings, anger, avoidance of people or places that remind them of the traumatic event, and difficulty concentrating. PTSD can impact a person’s job, relationships, and other important aspects of their life. 

Although clinicians prescribe treatment and medication for PTSD, some people self-medicate with drug abuse. Individuals with PTSD might abuse illicit or prescription drugs. Others might drink. Substance abuse might dull symptoms, but it cannot cure PTSD and is not an effective way to manage PTSD symptoms. Instead, substance abuse can make symptoms worse and, over time, lead to the development of a substance use disorder like drug or alcohol addiction. 

PTSD can be treated. Evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapies, and medication management can reduce PTSD symptoms and support proper condition management. PTSD tends to be a chronic condition because symptoms can flare up even after they’ve been dormant for months or years. Intense stress can trigger PTSD symptoms; however, treatment helps people cope with these symptoms in healthier ways, which allows for better management of the disorder.  

How Physical Injuries Contribute to Veterans’ Drug Abuse

drug abuse veterans

Some veterans encounter injuries, both minor and serious, in association with their service. Military health providers may prescribe pain medications or other prescription drugs to treat these injuries and related conditions. In some cases, veterans may develop a tolerance to their pain medications; this can lead to a dose increase. Further tolerance development and dose increase can pave a path to addiction and drug abuse. Even though clinicians try to monitor pain medications and other addictive prescription drugs closely, individuals may circumnavigate their providers and obtain their medications from another source. By abusing drugs in this way, veterans can develop a serious substance use disorder. 

Some injuries may necessitate ongoing pain management. This poses a serious risk for substance abuse as many effective pain medications like opioids are highly addictive. Many providers search for alternative ways to treat patients to reduce the substance abuse risk. 

Understanding Why Some Veterans Turn to Drugs

Some veterans turn to drugs because they are searching for a convenient and private way to manage their stress or injuries. Even though the drug abuse may begin with a minor dose increase like taking a prescribed medication an hour or two earlier than they should, this could spell danger if individuals make a pattern of seemingly minor abuses. 

Many veterans find it difficult to discuss their mental health and may have old-fashioned ideas about mental illness that may prevent them from seeking treatment with the military. They may fear being passed over for promotion or fear being discharged from the branch of the military. For a time, it may seem easier to take a drug quietly and privately to ease their mental or physical pain. Unfortunately, this can pave a path to a powerful addiction. 

WhiteSands Treatment Approach to Veterans Drug Abuse

WhiteSands offers high-quality drug addiction treatment. We treat veterans as well as other special demographics using best treatment practices and evidence-based therapies. Substance use disorders can be managed with abstinence, but treatment is generally required. Many of our therapies have a strong relapse prevention component to help clients protect their recovery progress. If you’re a veteran and struggling with substance abuse issues, call us to discuss our treatment plans and enrollment process. We can help you transform your life and health for the better, and put your drug addiction behind you.

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.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.