For those who have served in the military, they often take their leave as trauma survivors due to the experiences they have been through in war. Veterans are especially vulnerable to the type of mental health issues that affect trauma survivors because they might witness or be involved in serious violence and shocking events for an extended period of time.
Because of mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety veterans are more likely than others to struggle with a drinking problem. Having mental health issues like PTSD greatly increases the risk for developing an alcohol addiction.
Veterans in general tend to have high rates of substance abuse because they are dealing with traumatic memories and also physical pain from injuries received in combat.
An Increase in Binge Drinking
Studies have shown that soldiers who have been in traumatic war situations have a higher tendency to drink heavily on a regular basis with 53% binge drinking following combat exposure. A survey of soldiers recently returned from war showed that 27% were screened positive for alcohol abuse.
The results of these studies are strongly associated with exposure to life-threatening situations and atrocities related to war. Many veterans have a pre-existing tendency to drink heavily that becomes exacerbated significantly by the trauma they experienced in war.
Heavy drinking can often be glamorized in the military culture because it makes soldiers appear masculine or stronger when they can hold their liquor. After their active duty has ended, this tendency to drink combined with symptoms of PTSD can make their alcohol abuse evolve into a serious disorder.
During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, one in eight troops returning from combat were referred for counseling for alcohol problems after their post-deployment health assessments. Alcohol abuse was somewhat higher among male veterans but female veterans also had a significant amount of drinking disorders.
Treatment and Prevention for Soldiers
Rates of alcohol abuse among veterans seemed to have increased because of more recent wars. The military budget for substance abuse education, prevention and treatment increased from 38 million dollars to 51 million to accommodate soldiers.
The U.S. Army is working to deglamorize drinking in the eyes of soldiers in the hopes of preventing any further increases in alcohol abuse. Fortunately, more soldiers and veterans are seeking treatment for their alcohol abuse than ever to battle against their addiction problems.
The number of soldiers enrolled in addiction treatment for alcohol problems has increased by 56 percent. Veterans can benefit the most from addiction treatment that focuses both on their alcohol problem and any type of mental health problems they may be facing as a result of their experiences in wartime.
When soldiers are dealing with PTSD or other mental health problems, it can make it much more difficult to recover from their addiction. Addiction treatment that does not specifically address their mental health symptoms can be much less effective and lead to continued problems later on.
Veterans with PTSD might be experiencing symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares and a feeling of re-experiencing traumatic events. These kinds of symptoms not only interfere with their normal life and routine, it can cause them to drink to temporarily alleviate the issues. Feelings of depression and anxiety which are common among veterans returning from war can also trigger them to engage in alcohol abuse.
Treating any mental health issues alongside their alcohol problems can ensure that a veteran recovers completely and does not have an increased risk of relapsing. Treatment can give veterans a chance to talk with a therapist about their war experiences and work to reduce their symptoms as well as recover from their addiction.