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The Relationship Between Veterans and Drug Addiction
The relationship between veterans and drug addiction is a tragic one. Veterans suffer from higher rates of drug addiction than the general populace, much of which can be attributed to lingering effects of their time in service. Veterans reentering civilian life find it difficult to readjust. Self-medication is an easy option for most, but this can open the door to dependency and addiction.
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The Stress of Veterans Returning Home
The return home is a roller coaster for many veterans. First feelings of intense joy, then confusion, and potentially despair over what has been lost. Be it friends, family, or even time, something is always lost. Add in the physical and mental trauma that many endure on their tours, and it becomes hard to see an end to their pain.
Veterans and Self-Medication
Many cases of veterans and drug addiction begin with a prescription for pain killers for injuries, or for mental health medications for a variety of conditions. Once the patient experiences the relief that these medications provide, they may accidentally become addicted. Some medications are potentially addictive even when taken as prescribed, while others become addictive when patients begin to up their doses in response to increased tolerance.
Veterans and Sleeping Pills
Possibly the most common issue for veterans is difficulty sleeping. Insomnia can be the root of many other issues while awake. Veterans dealing with insomnia are often tempted to look for sleeping aids, many of which are available at drugstores without a prescription.
Taking some medication to help sleep may seem benign, but the use of a medication without a full understanding of the long-term effects can be hazardous. This is especially true when sleep issues are caused by an undiagnosed mental health condition such as PTSD. This not only increases the chance of addiction, but also produces negative, potentially aggressive effects.
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Veterans and Amphetamines
Stimulants, in particular Amphetamines, aren’t necessarily something that veterans will look for themselves. Typically, a Veteran returning home is looking for the opposite effects. While active, however, it is possible they were administered a combination of drugs they knew little about. In times deemed crucial to national security, the US Government can give medications to men and women serving in active duty, without their knowledge or consent, that will increase performance.
Tyson Manker, a former Marine, took a look at his record to determine what he was given during his time in 2003. Alongside a daily Amphetamine, he and his platoon were also given drugs that would later be determined to cause hallucinations and other illnesses, and potentially lead to suicide.
Amphetamines are highly addictive. Administering them unknowingly, without proper supervision, can create numerous challenges after those veterans return home. What’s worse, without knowing what they’ve grown addicted to, they don’t know what they are craving. This can make them irritable to the point of violence, a danger to themselves and others, and push them more towards self-medication.
Veterans Smoking Hash and Marijuana Illegally
While still active, many service men and women will look for something to help relieve the daily stress they’re presently living through. Unlike most drugs, or crops in general, the Marijuana plant can grow in a wide range of climates, making it easy to come by in most duty locales. While in Afghanistan, some Veterans reported that they would buy Hash, an extract from Cannabis, from locals.
While the use of medicinal Marijuana has been up for debate as a treatment method for PTSD among veterans for quite some time, Hash is a concentration of the mind-altering effects that are typically found in Marijuana. This has shown positive effects in the fight against PTSD symptoms, but that changes once those veterans are stateside. They are not able get a prescription for medical Marijuana, and the symptoms they were treating may come back. This means, along with the stress of coming back home, they may find symptoms of prolonged stress popping up. This can push them further toward drug abuse and self-medication.
Treatment for Veterans and Drug Addiction
To civilians, the return home for veterans seems like a joyous time. When many veterans begin to run into issues, it becomes hard for civilians to sympathize. There is a lot more stress in reintegrating than most realize. With what many Veterans have seen, endured, and taken over seas, it isn’t a switch they can just flip. Sometimes, turning to self-medication seems like the easiest, least-burdening way to get better.
If you are, or someone you love is, a Veteran that is having trouble fitting into a life outside of the military due to drug addiction, finding help as quickly as possible can be invaluable. If you don’t know where to start, try reaching out to a dedicated treatment provider. They are here to answer your questions and help you plan out your next steps toward recovery.
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