Drug abuse is a common problem in all levels of American society. In 2012, an estimated 23.1 million individuals over the age of 12 needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse. Addiction specialists are learning that some groups are at higher risk for substance abuse problems because of the trauma they have undergone in a variety of circumstances. These individuals may often resort to self-medication to try to reduce their post-traumatic stress symptoms.
But one subset of the population is particularly susceptible to drug abuse-veterans. Military personnel who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are especially vulnerable to drug dependence because of the emotional distress they carry from their experiences.
There are more veterans with combat experience living in the US now than at any time since the Vietnam War. And their difficulties exact a price on themselves, their families and the country.
Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder often shows a number of distinctive symptoms. It occurs in military people who have experienced combat and the traumatic sights and events that occur in these situations. After returning home, these soldiers may exhibit symptoms of:
- Intrusive memories of the traumatic event
- Sleep problems/nightmares
- Heightened alertness or irritability
- Feelings of depression or anxiety
- Feelings of isolation
- Numbness or lack of emotion
High Incidence of Drug Abuse
Post-traumatic stress disorder makes military veterans particularly vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse. Some studies indicate that up to 80% of combat veterans with post-traumatic stress met the criteria for alcohol or drug abuse.
A 1995 study found that 44% of veterans met the criteria for alcohol dependence and 22% met the criteria for drug abuse. The data indicates that women are at higher risk for post-traumatic stress than male veterans, and this may be because of incidences of rape or sexual abuse. However, men are less likely to seek treatment for post-traumatic stress than their female counterparts. The attempts at self-medication for these individuals is so common that screening for post-traumatic stress disorder is beginning to include testing for substance problems.
Helping Patients with Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome
Getting help for drug addiction is critical to restoring the lives of these military veterans. An important part of their treatment must include dealing with the underlying issues of trauma that contribute to their continued emotional distress. Effective drug rehab treatment is often needed to help these patients detox and learn how to overcome the feelings that trigger the substance problem.
If you or a loved one is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and resulting substance abuse, contact a reputable treatment center like Retreat LC today to return to a sober, healthy life.