Many veterans experience trauma from their time in the service. This could be due to what they experienced in combat or during training, losing fellow service members or pain from injuries suffered during their service. Too often, these heroes suffer in silence and turn to substance use to numb physical and emotional pain. What can we do to help veterans cope with these issues and fight the battle at home?
- Understand the underlying issue.
To effectively support veterans dealing with trauma or other service-related issues, mental health must be addressed along with addiction issues. According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, 1 in 3 veterans seeking treatment for substance use disorder is also living with post-traumatic stress disorder. One of the most important things we can do to support veterans is to understand the underlying cause of their addiction. Beyond observing a substance use disorder, being aware of the signs of PTSD and other mental struggles can offer insight into how your loved one is managing life after the service. Here are some symptoms that may indicate mental health issues.
- Difficulty sleeping and having nightmares
- Easily angered or irritated
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty connecting to others emotionally
- Persistent fear, anger, guilt or other negative emotions
- Loss of interest in activities the individual used to enjoy
- Know their triggers.
One of the most important things you can do to support a loved one is listening to them. After returning home from deployment, many veterans may try to avoid things that trigger painful memories from combat. Often, this can lead to substance use to numb feelings of stress.
Some veterans may also experience PTSD stateside after an accident or as victims of military sexual trauma. Veterans with these experiences often self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to address PTSD symptoms. Many veterans are also prescribed narcotic pain medications after injury and can become addicted following discharge. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, they may seek to acquire these medications from the street after no longer receiving a prescription. This can lead to dangerous consequences, including the use of alternative drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.
Being aware of the complexity of issues that may contribute to a veterans’ substance use can help promote understanding. By understanding triggers that may be causing negative reactions in your loved one, you’ll be able to better help them find healthier ways to cope.
- Encourage them to seek help.
There are resources available to veterans who struggle after deployment or discharge. From addiction treatment to mental and behavioral health counseling, there are support systems that can help. Your loved one may be hesitant to open up about their struggles, but it’s important for them to know they are not alone. Stigma and fear of judgement can prevent many people from seeking help but encouraging a loved one to seek treatment can lead to recovery and change their life.
The Veteran’s Administration has a wide array of services available in every state to treat substance use and behavioral health problems experienced by veterans. Sometimes these services are limited or difficult to access, so work is being done to expand the availability of private sector care for this population.
CleanSlate offers comprehensive treatment to help veterans and civilians struggling with opioid or alcohol use disorders. Using medication-assisted treatment, counseling and behavioral health support has shown to produce the best outcomes for people with addiction issues. CleanSlate offers medication including suboxone, sublocade, naltrexone, Vivitrol and more to help patients stabilize and reclaim their independence. Treatment for hepatitis C and other common comorbidities is also available.
CleanSlate is thankful for the service of our veterans and is committed to helping them recover and heal from substance use disorder with honor, in a non-judgmental and supportive environment. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or mental health issues after serving in the military, CleanSlate is here to support you without judgement. Visit www.cleanslatecenters.com or call 833-505-HOPE or help now.