Veteran drug abuse is a big problem and there are many reasons for this. In spite of efforts by the government to address substance abuse among current and former military members the rate of drug and alcohol abuse among active duty and veterans has increased considerably in the last few decades.
While the issue of drug abuse is not new the increased rate among veterans is a cause for concern. It is also an issue that is being addressed with medical marijuana. Opioid addiction is being successfully treated with medical marijuana.
Let’s take a closer look at veteran drug abuse.
During World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and other conflicts some returning military members experienced problems with drug abuse. During Vietnam, heroin and marijuana became quite problematic. WWII involved legal amphetamine use among American military members. In the early 2000s prescription drug abuse started to increase at a rapid pace.
How Common is Veteran Drug Abuse?
The rate of veteran drug abuse is alarming and this behavior is more common than many people imagine. Veterans have a much higher rate of alcohol and drug abuse than the civilian population. One area of substance abuse that effects veterans at very high rates today is prescription painkiller abuse.
Former military members are not only not immune they are at a higher risk than others.
Dependence and abuse of drugs and alcohol is very common among veterans. Those who have a problem may face obstacles to asking for help or refuse to admit that they need treatment. Some statistics report that at least 20% of veterans report substance abuse and at least one other mental health disorder. 11% or more reported abusing prescription medications.
What Drugs are Commonly Abused by Veterans?
When it comes to veteran drug abuse there are a wide range of substances which are abused. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, amphetamines and other stimulants, prescription pain medications, anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives, and many other drugs are abused by veterans, active duty service members, and civilians alike.
Why do Veterans Abuse Drugs?
There are many factors behind veteran drug abuse. Some vets suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, military sexual assault trauma, loss of limbs, stress, anxiety, depression, and physical injuries that are devastating. Many veterans have seen and experienced very traumatic events during their service and this can contribute to substance use disorder as well.
The factors behind drug abuse can be different and unique for each veteran. The root causes of the substance use disorder need to be uncovered in each case so that these can be addressed and the internal wounds and psychological trauma that these issues have caused can finally start to heal. When chronic pain is a problem then pain management techniques can be learned so fewer drugs are needed.
If you have been taking opioid drugs for pain relief cannabis can help you reduce the amount – and even take the place of your prescription drugs.
From our article: Cannabis for Pain Relief – Be in the Know for the Best Results
What Help is Available for Veterans Struggling with Substance Abuse?
There are a number of treatment programs designed specifically for veteran drug abuse. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has an Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program for eligible veterans that can provide detox services, substance abuse rehabilitation and recovery, and even psychiatric care for any other mental health disorders that the veteran may have.
Among study participants, medical cannabis use was associated with a 64% decrease in opioid use…
Source: Journal of Pain
What are Veteran Drug Courts?
One effort to combat veteran drug abuse involves the use of special veteran drug courts. These court programs are designed to keep veterans who are nonviolent drug offenders from being sent to prison, and they have been established in more than 20 states. These special courts combine substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as a mentor from the same service branch.
Obstacles to Treatment for Drug Abuse
There are many different obstacles to veteran drug abuse treatment. There is still a stigma associated with alcohol and drug abuse so some will not come forward and ask for help because of this. Some veterans are concerned that admitting they need help will cost them their right to keep a weapon. Others worry that they will be seen as weak or unfit because of the substance abuse.
A long wait, a shortage of treatment programs and options in some rural areas, and even the influence of the drugs being abused may all keep veterans from seeking the help and treatment that they need. These and other barriers need to be removed so that veterans can quickly and easily access substance abuse treatment when this help is needed.
With drug addiction so out of hand, it’s high time for more funding for research, and more access to medical marijuana for veterans.