We look at veterans as heroes. People who have served our country and made incredible sacrifices for American freedom. But tragically, even heroes can fall prey to addiction. And, believe it or not, people who have seen combat may even be more likely. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) can wreak havoc on someone’s emotional health and wellness, driving them to “self medicate.” For this blog, we wanted to look deeper into this growing trend and offer hope to anyone who is dealing with these issues.
The Facts About Addiction And PTSD
This may come off surprising; but according to The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, more than two out of every 10 veterans suffering from PTSD also have an addiction issue. Studies have also shown that war veterans tend to be binge drinking alcoholics, often going to the point of blacking out to ease their emotional pain. In regards to the recent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the VA claims that one out of every 10 returning soldiers has a drug or alcohol problem.
And as we mentioned above, this is not an issue that is going away anytime soon. In fact, many recent stats show an increase in drug and alcohol abuse among military personnel. A survey conducted earlier this decade revealed a 56 percent increase of soldiers seeking treatment from 2003 to 2009. There is also data that shows 3.8 million painkiller prescriptions were written by military doctors in 2009. And keep in mind, this was BEFORE the opioid epidemic became widespread.
Common Addictions Among Military Personnel
PTSD can be tremendously distressing. Watching death and carnage before your eyes haunts many soldiers for a lifetime. That’s why it’s easy to see a large painkiller dependency among that population; specifically Lortab, Vicodin and OxyContin. Valium, Xanax and Ambien are also high on that list and are regularly prescribed to sufferers of PTSD.
Drinking problems occur frequently among those currently serving. Many soldiers are far away from home and dealing with tense situations. As with most addictions, the alcoholism is used as a form of comfort and a way to ease the pain.
Properly Treating Addiction Patients With PTSD
People diagnosed with PTSD carry a wide range of symptoms, including aggression, insomnia, low self-esteem and depression. It is also believed that PTSD sufferers often engage in self-destructive behavior, which is where the addiction comes into play.
We have seen our share of PTSD veterans at Valley Recovery Center and we have trained facilitators to address the delicacies of their situation. Our treatments have shown one-on-one counseling to be an important recovery tool. It gives the person suffering a private and safe forum to express their deepest emotions. Though it may be difficult, our medical professionals work to help these patients explore their past traumas and how they tie into their current state of using.
Cognitive processing is another effective treatment method. This works to change the way a patient feels about their dependency and their upsetting emotions. It is a form of behavioral therapy that teaches specific skills to combat negative thoughts. There are also writing assignments and “homework” exercises to channel a patient’s focus into new areas.
As we mentioned above, we proudly salute any hero who has served this country. And we can’t tell you how rewarding it is for us to see a PTSD patient successfully conquer their addictions. If you or someone you love has served and is suffering, please let us help.