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Alcohol and Drug Use Among Veterans: A Growing Problem | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Alcohol and Drug Use Among Veterans: A Growing Problem

The ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to take their toll upon our soldiers, returning veterans, as well as their families. It’s especially hard on those who have experienced long or multiple deployments in these regions. It is quite common for these soldiers to experience post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, as well as depression and excessive anxiety.

Treatment often involves the use of addictive prescription narcotics, and those not receiving adequate treatment often seek other means of relief. Drug and alcohol consumption is on the rise among our veterans – even while the rate of use is far below that of the civilian population.

Here are some quick statistics to give you an idea of the severity of the problem:

  • There are 5.2 million soldiers who served during the Gulf War
  • 1 in 3 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will face a major psychological injury
  • 300,000 troops have been to the Middle East at least 3 times. This increases the rate of combat stress by 50%
  • Only 50% of those diagnosed with PTSD seek help
  • 1 soldier commits suicide every day

Click the image to view the slide presentation "Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families: How Substance Abuse Treatment Research is Effecting Positive Change" by Dr. Kathleen Carroll, Yale University School of Medicine.
Click the image to view the slide presentation “Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families: How Substance Abuse Treatment Research is Effecting Positive Change” by Dr. Kathleen Carroll, Yale University School of Medicine.

There are multiple factors that can bring about addictive behaviors such as PTSD, pain, noise shock, as well as visual atrocities that our soldiers see and often cannot forget. The soldier becomes anxious and fearful and can develop sleep disturbances and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness.

Since it is common in our society to say “have a drink and relax” or “take one of these pills to relax,” a veteran may feel comfortable doing so. Initially that drink or pill does provide relief from their anxious or painful state. However, it soon becomes short-lived, and the veteran requires either more alcohol or pills to achieve a state of relief. This is where the dependency and abuse become a major factor in their daily lives. At this point they no longer believe that they can be happy without either alcohol or pills.

Unfortunately, it usually ends up where both substances become necessary for our veterans to reach a place of false contentment. Thus begins the never-ending quest to maintain that level of oblivion. Anyone who has experienced this cycle will readily tell you that these “downers” will eventually send you spiraling downwards into the pits of despair.

It is also noteworthy to say that if you observe any unusual behavior in your soldier, spouse, or children, immediately contact your local VA and seek out information and treatments available in your locality. It is often forgotten that families that remain at home while one parent is deployed also undergo a large amount of stress and worry. This can unwittingly cause a dependence on one or more substances.

As a nation, it is our responsibility to guide our veterans and their families to whatever forms of support they may need. We need to keep encouraging returning soldiers to take advantage of the many resources that are available!

Teresa Agostino

Originally from Canada, Terri moved to the US at 16 and joined the Army Reserves at 17. She went active Army in 1991, and spent almost 2 years in Iraq as a program analyst for the Army Corps of Engineers. She currently works for the VA as an Accounts Management Supervisor. Terri has her MBA in HR management.
Teresa Agostino

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5 thoughts on “Alcohol and Drug Use Among Veterans: A Growing Problem

  1. Well written article on a difficult subject Teresa. I just retired in July from 20+ years duty. I want to share something about “coping” thru the use of alcohol. Early in my career, I used to drink quite a bit. It made me feel better and help me “enjoy” life, or so I thought. The drinking got out of control but I didn’t realize that until I got into serious trouble. I quit drinking because I learned that my life depended on quitting. One of the lessons I learned during this quitting period was something called FEAR. It stands for “face everything and recover”. I’m not a psychologist but I can say that it is true. You need the right people in your life to work thru the bad stuff that lives in your head and causes trouble for you. I would encourage anyone to follow your advice and seek help. There is no shame in letting good people help you. Today, I live a good life because I got help.

  2. Thank you David. I also went through a phase when I was active duty where I would drink myself to oblivian. I had just lost someone I loved, a baby, and realised due to an inbjury my military career was not going to last as long as I wanted. Thankfully, I had a friend who helped me realise the path I was on and I seeked help. I still struggle with that urge to drink to forget and it is a daily struggle for me. That is part of why I do things like this – to help soldiers as much as I can. It gives me something to focus on other than myself and really helps me stay focused and strong.

  3. My heart goes out to you. I lost my brother to a terrible disease (muscular dystrophy) when he was in his early 40’s back in 1999. I had been clean and sober for a few years when it happened. I was fortunate enough to not be tempted to drink but that soberness left me all to aware of the loss, without respite. I felt it for a couple years. But then the pain and sadness began to dull. I guess I had survivor guilt. But I can assure you and anyone else that the good stuff returns. I am reminded on Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal who wrote the book Lone Survivor (also a movie). Amazing man and quite the story. We all share loss and the hope and perseverance to hang on for a better tomorrow. God Bless you.

  4. Every service member knows this all too well. I’ve been fortunate to not have given into that temptation, however, I know so many that have and even lost their lives. We’ve gone through rigorous training to be America’s strongest yet we struggle with letting others see our weakness.

    I’ve been doing research on veterans in regards to addiction, mental health and suicide when I came across a really good article.

    Should anyone else be interested to see how this would help others here’s the page I looked at https://oceanbreezerecovery.org/blog/veteran-addiction-part-1/

    Hopefully, this helps as one fallen soldier is one to many.

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