Alcoholism in veterans is a common and severe problem. Veterans show higher rates of alcoholism on a regular basis compared to the general population. Substance use disorder (SUD) remains a prevalent problem among veterans, despite resources available to specifically help service members overcome their addiction. Many veterans are also at risk for developing co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are two conditions that involve substance use and mental health disorders. It is essential to educate and motivate veterans toward finding help. By taking a look into alcoholism, its relationship with veterans and why many veterans turn to use substances, individuals can help the veterans in their life seek the help they need.
Anxiety, Depression and PTSD
After returning from service, some veterans may struggle with job placement, financial stability and familial support. Facing such challenges can trigger depression, anxiety, panic and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Strong emotions associated with PTSD and other anxiety disorders can create irritability in a person, making it more difficult to find or maintain the daily activities necessary to support a healthy lifestyle such as family, friends and career. Over time, if not treated, such stress can turn into a cycle that becomes much harder to manage. Such processes that impact life negatively include:
- Damaging relationships
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Losing a job
- Depression and anxiety
The traumatic events experienced when serving active duty can become internalized and maybe even suppressed; however, these triggers become more frequent and more intense when untreated. Soon, these traumas create deep psychological effects. When PTSD and other anxiety and stress disorders become debilitating, many veterans can turn to alcohol to cope. While self-medication might lend short-term relief, it will not nullify trauma. Substance use will create more problems in the long run.
The more someone self-medicates, the higher their tolerance to the substance becomes. Each time a veteran drinks, they likely need more to return to the initial feeling they got when first drinking. When tolerance climbs, it becomes very dangerous and, if untreated, could lead to an overdose.
Homelessness and Veterans
Roughly 40,000 former soldiers are homeless. Veterans who become homeless often struggle to maintain careers and families because they lack the support and resources to get help. Members of the veteran homeless community are very vulnerable to alcoholism. Many who cannot find shelter are left trying to find refuge on the streets. Many become jobless, lack health insurance and go without food for weeks at a time. Soon, they develop a sense of hopelessness and depression and eventually turn to alcohol. Homeless veterans also frequently interact with other veterans and non-veterans who also struggle with substance use disorders and other mental health disorders, which may encourage them to engage in alcohol use. Studies estimate that about 11% of adult homeless populations are veterans and most struggle with alcoholism or co-occurring disorders.
Alcoholism and Maintaining Relationships
Learning how to adjust back into life and relationships after serving in the military can be jarring for a veteran, and substance use can make this even more challenging. Some veterans that have developed a dependency on alcohol conceal their use, while others might frequent social settings and spend a lot of money to support their drinking. Each damages relationships, thus damaging trust within family and friends. Being under the weight of addiction can also interfere with job performance and therefore damage professional relationships. Further, when the substance takes the driver’s seat, it can cause verbal disputes and even domestic violence, which worsen PTSD and create unpleasant emotional states. However, building relationships is about trust and support, and when both are lacking, it is time to get help.
Treatment for Veterans
Alcohol use can affect veterans of any age, gender or military ranking. With millions of veterans in need of assistance, the focus has become on offering veteran-specific programs designed to prevent dangerous substance use patterns. Such programs often involve a combination of:
- Individual therapy
- Family counseling
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
While these therapies can apply to all individuals struggling with SUD, veteran-centric settings provide a space for veterans to open up, connect and identify through the experiences shared by other veterans. These spaces also offer the opportunity to build back trust and support within the self and others – not just other veterans but also the friends, family and work relationships in a veteran’s life. Taking steps in these recovery programs helps empower a veteran and work toward goals for recovery and success.
When seeking professional help and having options and availability to these options, a veteran struggling with alcoholism will work on and set realistic goals for their recovery. At New Hope Ranch in Manor, Texas, we have care programs that focus on helping veterans overcome substance use and mental health disorders. We believe that every veteran’s recovery is different and each approach to treatment will differ based on their needs. Therefore, correct diagnosis and assessment will help to improve the ability to overcome impulses and triggers, and New Hope Ranch can do this. If you or a loved one needs help, then the time to act is today. Choosing to seek treatment for SUD is a life-changing decision that is both an investment in yourself and a better future. With 24/7 admissions, there is always the opportunity to reach out. To learn more about New Hope Ranch and our benefits of veteran-specific programs, then call us today at (737) 600-8565.