Among veterans, alcohol is the most often abused substance. Veterans suffer from alcoholism because of mental health disorders and struggle to adjust to civilian lives after deployment. There is, however, effective treatment for veterans seeking sober lifestyles once military service has ended.
Military Culture and Alcoholism
Drinking can be part of the culture of many service members on active duty. It’s a way for service members to connect with their fellows while in the military. As a result of this culture and practice, those who serve are more likely to abuse alcohol than their civilian counterparts. More than that, alcohol use disorders are the most prevalent form of substance abuse for veterans who are accustomed to and comfortable with drinking as a pastime, social activity, and coping strategy.
In recent years, alcohol-related health issues have been noted in studies of service members. Thousands of US Army soldiers were screened three to four months after returning from service, finding that as many as 27 percent abused alcohol. Meanwhile, the 2015 Health-Related Behaviors Survey found that one in three active-duty service members are binge drinkers, consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion. Binge and heavy drinking are even more common among war veterans and military personnel with combat exposure.
Alcohol abuse can continue through military drinking culture for years and years after service ends. The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows, for example, that veterans are much more likely to abuse alcohol than the general population. According to them, most veterans who enter treatment report alcohol as the main substance of abuse.
PTSD and Alcoholism
Deployment in the military can be associated with smoking, drug use, and drinking, and the rates of binge drinking are comparatively high when contrasted with the civilian population. But, more importantly, high exposure to violence, combat, and trauma increases the likelihood of problematic drinking as well as the co-occurring disorder of PTSD.
Some veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also have an alcohol use disorder. PTSD is a severe mental health condition resulting from experiencing or witnessing traumatic and life-threatening events. Such traumatic events include combat, injury, and military sexual abuse.
The symptoms of PTSD vary by individual, but flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, and depression are common. Veterans with PTSD can be more vulnerable to alcoholism and drug abuse.
Common Questions about Veteran Alcoholism
Families, friends, and veterans themselves wonder how to face alcoholism and its effects. The condition of an alcohol use disorder demands treatment; otherwise, it presents several consequences for the veteran in nearly every aspect of life and their family, household, and circle of connections.
What are the signs of veteran Alcoholism?
Signs of alcohol abuse among veterans are the same as the general population. A treatment professional will use the criteria outlined by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to ascertain a diagnosis. Some of the standard criteria include:
- An inability to stop or cut back on drinking
- Uncontrollable cravings for alcohol
- Using alcohol in dangerous contexts
- Thinking and obsessing about drinking
- Continuing to drink despite trouble
- Reducing non-drinking activities
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
- Showing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
What causes Alcoholism among veterans?
Many factors cause alcoholism. Mostly, the disease is the result of a combination of sources. Among veterans, it’s common for alcohol to be used to medicate symptoms of behavioral disorders as the result of trauma and combat.
Alcohol abuse can also be related to the culture of military deployment and learned drinking habits. Beyond that, when veterans struggle with civilian life, they can find themselves coping with alcohol.
How does alcohol abuse affect veterans and their families?
When veterans suffer from alcoholism, they endure countless consequences, including financial, interpersonal, legal, and lethal.
For instance, the veteran population is famously correlated with suicide and poverty. But, in addition, traumatized veterans plagued by physical pain also make up a large portion of the homeless population in the United States. At least one in ten of the homeless population formerly served in the military and may also struggle with mental health or alcoholism.
Families of these veterans endure their own hardships of an increase in physical violence and dysfunction resulting from drinking.
How can veterans overcome barriers to alcohol treatment?
Many barriers present themselves for veterans seeking treatment for an alcohol use disorder. For one, the masculine culture of the military emphasizes the ability to solve one’s own problems through strength, leadership, and willpower—leaving little room for asking for help or resources necessary to overcome challenges like addiction and PTSD. Some other financial and family obligations can also block treatment.
However, veterans will find all kinds of programs available through the VA for treating mental health and substance use disorders. There’s considerable flexibility for them to honor their obligations while also getting the treatment they need to be the leaders they imagine.
Is alcoholism a disability in the VA?
Alcoholism is a disability according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The psychiatric condition and disability severity are determined through consultations and screenings through VA treatment professionals. You can receive VA disability assistance for an “alcohol-abuse disability” when it arises from combat-related PTSD.
What does alcoholism treatment for veterans include?
Alcohol abuse affects every aspect of a veteran’s health and well-being. Treatment, then, must be coordinated and comprehensive in addressing the emotions and personal history involved in maintaining and creating the disorder.
Those who struggle with alcohol abuse benefit first from medically supervised detox, followed ideally by a residential stay that includes therapies, medication, and group support. According to research, CBT, EMDR, and DBT are particularly helpful therapies, while medications and group support also show effectiveness at deterring relapse.
Ongoing outpatient is usually part of a veteran’s treatment course, helping them maintain positive changes in their thinking, feeling, and lifestyle.
Choose The Haven’s Alcohol Rehab for Veterans
Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder are serious health conditions, and evidence-based treatment facilities can make a full recovery possible. If you or a veteran in your life currently abuses alcohol, contact The Haven Detox to discuss veteran-specific treatment programs, verify insurance, and take the first steps to recovery.