America is known for having a strong military, whose members are strongly supported by other American citizens, because we recognize that their duty and sacrifice are what allows each of us to enjoy the freedom we all share. Unfortunately, the United States has participated in many conflicts across the globe, most recently in Iraq, in 2003 as a response the 2001 terrorist attacks that took place on American soil on 9/11. American troops are still currently active there, to this day. While many know the long history of the United States, and our involvement in a number of wars, a newer topic in the American discourse is the tumultuous repercussions of these conflicts to our soldier’s mental health. The military and drug use are not mutually-exclusive. Many active duty military personnel and our returning veterans can easily face the very real challenge of developing a substance use disorder.
Military combat veterans and drug use.
Some things that Veterans in our country are forced to deal with, usually upon returning home from war, range from issues like homelessness, unemployment, and mental health disorders such as PTSD (or post-traumatic stress disorder). These issues are certainly not unexpected and they are relatively common. Another issue with members of the military, and their immediate families, are substance abuse disorders, like an addiction or chemical dependence to drugs or alcohol.
Oftentimes, this can go both ways, as the loved one who is a member of the military may develop an addiction overseas or once returning home, or, vice versa, the family members who are not in the military may develop an addiction while their loved one is away at war.
In 2015 alone, more than 30% of active duty military personnel engaged in hazardous drinking behavior or met criteria for an alcohol abuse disorder.
What types of drugs are commonly used by military personnel?
Besides alcohol, substances like marijuana and cocaine are also common among active duty service members currently in the military, however, due to the fact that testing positive to a random drug test could lead to a dishonorable discharge, many military members develop problems associated with alcohol or prescription painkillers, commonly prescribed due to injuries from combat or carrying and operating heavy equipment. For instance, during the years of 2001 to 2009, the number of painkillers prescribed to the military more than quadrupled, causing a subsequent rise in opioid use disorders as well. In 2017, one in four active-duty members of the United States military received a prescription for opioids.
According to data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than one out of every 10 veterans has a substance abuse disorder of some kind, which is slightly higher than the general population, even more so when just comparing data for male veterans aged 18-25. This number could be attributed to the fact that many veterans will also develop a mental health disorder as well. A recent report found that nearly 30 percent of active duty personnel have a mental health condition requiring treatment, and just under 50 percent of veterans have a mental health condition that also requires treatment.
The negative stigma concerning mental health prevents military and their families from asking for help.
Another issue for military members is the stigma surrounding mental health and/or addiction. Many times, they are afraid to seek help in fear of what loved ones or other people may think. If you, or a loved one, are struggling with a mental health issue or a substance abuse disorder, please do not hesitate to ask for help! Years of experience has shown that many family members are accepting and more than willing to try to get you the help that you need. You made sacrifices to help defend American freedom, our heritage and values. You deserve to be treated with respect and care, especially when it comes to your mental health.
As always, please feel free to reach out to one of our addiction specialists today!
More Than Rehab is located just outside of Houston, Texas.
We’re always here to offer help when needed!
Substance abuse among America’s Military Families.
Another important aspect of the military and drug use, is what happens to the family that gets left behind while their loved one is away fighting for the freedom and protection of our country? This is important to consider when talking about the military and drug use, but all too often it seems to get overlooked. A recent survey found that roughly 44% of people in the military are married with children, and approximately 56% are married alone. Numbers estimate that there are more members of military families then there are active duty personnel, where roughly around 1.9 million people in the United States are an immediate part of a military family.
According to the NSDUH (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health), over 30% of military wives aged 18-49 participated in hazardous binge drinking behavior within the last 30 days and over 12 percent reported abusing illicit drugs within the past year. Furthermore, they were much more likely to engage in binge drinking behavior compared to other members of the civilian population. Additionally, 30 percent of military wives aged 18-49 also had a mental health disorder requiring treatment within the last year.
These rates of substance abuse could be due to a number of reasons: having to juggle all the household responsibilities and take care of the kids all alone while their husbands are away at war. Wondering if their loved one is going to be safe, while deployed to active duty. These things are emotionally traumatic for both parties. Unfortunately, the children of active duty service members are not unaffected by one, or both of their parents being in the military. The same survey showed that nearly 20% of children who had a parent in the military also struggled with a substance abuse disorder of some kind.
While research in this field is still relatively new, it is safe to say that not only are veterans and active members of the military affected, but their family members may be as well. There is honor in serving your country, and there is honor in loving someone who does, but it can come with its own set of consequences.
Here at More Than Rehab, we truly understand substance abuse disorders and specialize in areas like how the military may impact the entire family with things like PTSD and substance abuse disorders. It is important to remember that even though you may be suffering, you are not alone. Let us help you get back on track and show you the way to get your life back. To the members of the military and their families, we appreciate your service to this country and would not hesitate in returning the favor!