Veterans and heroin addiction is a troubling trend that continues to rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) since 2002, the number of United States veterans struggling from opioid addiction has increased more than 50 percent. Many risk factors, including difficulty returning to civilian life, PTSD, and chronic pain, increase the probability of veterans developing a substance use pattern. Let’s look at some risk factors and ways to help veterans find help for heroin addiction and other mental health and substance use disorders.
Common Risk Factors
Many believe that veterans don’t typically develop addiction disorders; however, it is the contrary. Most veterans develop substance use disorders to some degree. Many veterans who turn to heroin and other substances have co-occurring disorders related to traumatic experiences or pain-related injuries.
Disorders may include:
- Traumatic brain injury
The stress of deployment and enduring active military service only to return to family and friends can create additional mental health issues. Such issues can cause a veteran to feel ill-equipped to handle and manage them on their own.
In many cases, veterans turn to alcohol and other drugs to cope. During these episodes, veterans might begin to isolate themselves, further perpetuating negative thoughts and behaviors.
Chronic Pain Management
The wear and tear of active duty can create lasting and chronic injuries within a veteran. Not only do these injuries cause mental health issues that need addressing, but physical pain requires treatment, too. Around 65.5 percent of United States veterans suffer from some degree of pain. Additionally, 9.1 percent categorize their pain as severe. Therefore, it has become common for physicians to prescribe high-dose opioids to assist veterans with combat-related injuries and the chronic pain they cause.
Prescribing powerful opioid medication to veterans who are already struggling with other substance use issues can create more dangers of developing serious drug-related problems. As veterans begin to rely on the mind-numbing effects narcotics bring, the need for more potent drugs continues to grow. Soon, the jump from prescription opioids to heroin becomes an easier one to make.
Signs of Heroin Addiction
It can be challenging to spot if a veteran struggles with substance use or has difficulty dealing with everyday life. However, there are telltale signs of heroin addiction that you can look out for to identify if they have an addiction.
Some signs of heroin addiction include:
- Behavioral changes
- Constricted pupils
- Hyper-awareness followed by drifting off
- Extreme weight loss
- Presence of track marks on the arms
- Abscesses or infections at injection points
Any paraphernalia such as needles that are not for medical use, burnt spoons, and small plastic bags containing white powdery residue are all major indicators of heroin use. If any of these items or signs are present in a veteran’s life and environment, the next step is to seek professional help.
How to Help
It is essential for veterans that struggle with heroin addiction to understand that they are not alone. Loved ones can help by offering support and making themselves available to listen without judgment. Simply offering someone struggling with addiction a listening ear can make all the difference in helping them understand that they have support, and therefore they are more likely to seek help.
Additionally, it is crucial when seeking help for a veteran to encourage treatment without being too forceful. Veterans may find it challenging to confront their problems with substance use and being too forceful could push them away from receiving the help they need. They are also likely to worry about social stigma and feel paranoid about privacy or how they will look in front of their peers.
Qualified professionals and facilities will provide a thorough drug assessment. Such assessment will incorporate an in-depth examination including:
- Family health history
- Trauma-related experiences
- Drug use history and other underlying conditions that contribute to substance use
Going through this process will help determine the severity of their addiction and which treatment might suit them best. All screenings remain confidential, so someone seeking help will never need to worry about others finding out about their substance use disorder.
At New Hope Ranch, our programs for veterans appropriately address mental, physical and substance use issues specific to veterans’ experiences. Such an atmosphere aims to educate veterans and their families about their mental health and substance use disorders. Being around other veterans also provides a supportive environment to help a veteran feel more comfortable and understood. Our ten-acre Texas ranch will also offer them the space and opportunity to utilize nature and team-building activities to help restore trust with themselves and others and ultimately overcome symptoms related to PTSD, anxiety and depression. If you or a loved one is currently struggling to manage their physical and mental health and is turning to use powerful drugs like heroin, then today’s time to get help. To learn more about our services and programs for veterans, reach out to New Hope Ranch today by calling (737) 600-8565.