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What Influences Alcoholism In Veterans?
After returning home from service, many veterans struggle with job placement, financial stability, and familial support, which can trigger depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and irritability. These adverse outcomes can make it more difficult to find or maintain a job and achieve financial stability and familial support which can cause a vicious cycle.
These debilitating circumstances directly impact a veteran’s life choices and wellbeing, causing some to self-medicate with alcohol or other substances. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse generally only exacerbates co-occurring mental health disorders and challenging life circumstances. This often leads to more drinking, and eventually alcoholism may develop.
How Alcoholism Affects Veterans
Alcoholism in veterans can cause many problems. Some of the most severe include:
- Severe health problems, including death.
- Damage to interpersonal relationships.
- Shame surrounding alcoholism.
- Loss of job due to alcoholism.
- Increasing feelings of depression.
- PTSD symptoms becoming more intense.
The scope of alcoholism among veterans is huge. In 2019, 4 in 5 veterans struggling with an substance use disorder (SUD) struggled with alcohol use.
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PTSD And Veteran Alcohol Use
A recent study stated that 2.1 million veterans received treatment for mental health conditions. During their time in the military, veterans often face severely traumatizing events, such as:
- Death of friends in combat.
- Severe injuries.
- Having to take lives.
- Seeing horrific tragedies.
- Long periods of time away from loved ones.
- Sexual assault/harassment.
These traumas veterans face often create deep psychological effects. One of the most common is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 12 out of 100 Gulf War veterans suffer from PTSD, while 15 out of every 100 Vietnam veterans are currently diagnosed with PTSD. Signs and symptoms of PTSD veterans commonly experience include:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Intrusive memories.
- Mood swings.
- Emotional numbness.
- Negative emotions.
- Self-harming behaviors.
Veteran alcohol abuse is a coping mechanism for some wanting to nullify trauma, nervousness, flashbacks, anxiety, and other feelings associated with PTSD. Unfortunately, alcohol can worsen depression and feelings of suicide, straining relationships with the self and others. PTSD can often go undiagnosed as veterans may feel shame and be hesitant to ask for help.
The road to sobriety can set you free. Getting help for alcohol or substance abuse can change your life. Treatment providers are ready to assist you or a loved one struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders. Contact a treatment provider today to discuss rehab options.
Homeless Veterans And Alcoholism
In response to the instability of adjusting to life post-combat, some veterans become homeless as they have difficulty with maintaining careers or family dynamics post-combat. Unfortunately, their homelessness then further drives alcoholism issues.
In 2016, 39,500 veterans experienced homelessness in a single night. 11% of adult homeless populations are veterans, with the majority suffering from alcoholism and/or co-occurring disorders. Members of the veteran homeless community are highly vulnerable to alcoholism as they may use alcohol to cope with the instability in their lives.
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Veteran Alcoholism And Relationships
High rates of alcohol consumption are associated with strained relationships. Some veterans who secretly abuse alcohol may lie to conceal their habit and others may spend large amounts of money to support their habit. Both can tremendously damage trust and family finances. Alcohol addiction can result in poor job performance, damaging professional relationships and the ability of a family to make ends meet. Alcoholism can create irritation or hostility that can lead to verbal disputes or domestic violence. Alcoholism can also worsen PTSD, creating unpleasant emotional states that impact both the alcoholic and those around them.
Preventing Alcoholism In Veterans
Maintaining healthy drinking patterns can help to prevent alcoholism among veterans. Heavy drinking, 4 drinks per day for men and 3 drinks per day for women, over an extended period of time can rewire the brain and its normal functions. This is what creates a dependency that can lead to an addiction. Binge drinking, 5 or more drinks in 2 hours for men and 4 or more drinks in 2 hours for women, is also an unhealthy drinking pattern that can lead to alcoholism. Although moderate drinking does not fully eliminate health or addiction risks, it is the safest way to avoid potential adverse outcomes. Moderate drinking is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
Treatment for Alcoholism In Veterans
Veterans struggling with alcoholism and substance abuse don’t have to feel hopeless. There are many rehab facilities that specialize in helping veterans achieve sobriety. Rehab facilities treat alcoholism with medically-assisted detox, helping veterans purge their bodies of alcohol safely and comfortably. Veterans then can get examined for co-occurring disorders and treated with psycho-education and holistic therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, and meditation.
Veterans will also have access to support groups, such as 12-Steps programs and veteran-centered groups to help build healthy relationships. Many groups, such as SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) empower veterans to set goals for recovery success.
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