Despite popular belief, alcohol and drug use in the military remain unacceptably high. The use of both of these types of substances can have a devastating impact on force readiness and psychological fitness. Unfortunately, many enlisted members fall victim to the comfort of these substances. Alcohol and drugs trigger a cascade of chemical reactions in the body that reduce stress and fatigue. They also cause a rush of euphoric emotions.
Many active-duty service members carry their addictions home with them. The stigma of having an addiction, as well as potential legal consequences, prevents many from seeking the help they need until it’s too late.
There are many faces to addiction, and addiction does not discriminate. Military personnel are not immune to the effects of substance abuse. In fact, they may be even more susceptible. In 2008:
47% of active duty military personnel reported binge drinking
11% of active duty military personnel reported misusing prescription drugs
2.3% of active duty military personnel reported using illicit drugs
These numbers have since skyrocketed. Alcohol and drug use has continued to increase over the years, as both substances become more accessible. The most misused prescription drugs are opioid painkillers. Prescription drug addictions can be just as deadly and problematic as illicit drug addictions.
Serving our country is stressful. In fact, the position of enlisted military personnel and military general ranked as the 2nd and 3rd most stressful jobs of 2015. There are many factors of active duty that may drive enlisted members to alcohol or drug use. Common reasons include:
Alcohol tends to be easily accessible on military bases all over the world. In addition, military personnel use the same types of drugs as civilians.
Drug abuse or alcohol abuse usually stems from self-medication. Many enlisted members self-diagnose their symptoms, and find an escape in drugs or alcohol. Many feel embarrassed or even ashamed to admit to their condition.
PTSD affects more soldiers than what most people guess. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has guessed that nearly 31% of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD. 11% of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan battle the same illness.
War is never pretty. Many enlisted soldiers have seen horrific events unfold before their eyes. Accidents, injuries, terrorism, death of a loved one or natural disasters can all trigger PTSD. To cope, many turn to drugs and alcohol. There's a huge correlation between the two. In fact, over 2 out of 10 veterans, who have PTSD, struggle with substance abuse.
Knowing when to get help for PTSD instead of relying on drugs and alcohol is key. By treating PTSD at its roots, addiction issues are less likely to arise. Common signs and symptoms of PTSD include:
Those struggling with both PTSD and a substance abuse should seek a rehab program that targets both emotional and mental burdens as well. Most experts recommend seeking a treatment program that incorporates mindfulness-based relapse prevention, group counseling or individual counseling.
While addiction can affect anyone, some members are more susceptible than others. For example, men are more likely to both abuse and become addicted to alcohol than women. Members with multiple deployments and combat exposure are most at risk of developing an addiction. They are also more likely to:
Those who are more susceptible should be aware of their increased risk. These individuals should be checked on more frequently by supervisors and commanding officers. By recognizing signs of distress, affected soldiers are less likely to seek outlets to channel their depression, anxiety and frustration.
Military personnel are not privy to special drugs. They use the same types of drugs as civilians, and need the same type of rehab when seeking sobriety. Common types of substances abused by enlisted members include:
Finding illicit drugs off-base can be difficult. Many enlisted members resort to relying on prescription drugs. The prescription drugs are fairly easy to get from the physicians.
Abusing drugs or alcohol in the military is irresponsible. In addition to the legal consequences, being under the influence prevents military personnel from:
If members cannot function, they are a danger to not only yourself, but to others in their unit. They are also less prepared and ready to meet and fulfill their duties.
The military has a zero tolerance approach to illicit drugs.
Those who have tested positive for illegal drugs will face an open investigation. Consequences include court-martial or other administrative action. The worst case scenario is termination. That will ultimately end one’s enlisted career.
The military uses random and command directed urinalysis testing to test for drugs. The onus is on the military to prove that active personnel both knowingly and consciously ingested an illegal substance. To combat this issue, more active personnel are resorting to misusing prescription drugs. This can be just as addictive and deadly.
When charged with drug abuse, the consequences can be quite dire. It’s best to hire an attorney to speak on your behalf. Good representation can make a world of a difference.
Previously, all active-duty service members could drink. Unfortunately, drinking has quickly gotten out of hand.
Those who fail to stay within the legal drinking limits may be subject to a dishonorable discharge. This government dismissal will forever be on record. It can become a huge problem for those who wish to have a future career in the military. Often times, this dismissal will prevent affected individuals from holding another military position.
The problem with an addiction is that most people don't realize that they are addicted until it's too late. Most users convince themselves that they don't have an addiction problem. Learning how to identify the differences between substance use, abuse and addiction can come in handy.
Substance use is simply the usage of any substance, whether it be prescription drugs, illicit drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. It does not imply that there's a problem. For example, having a sip of wine or a smoke counts as substance use.
Substance abuse is a level up from substance use. The difference lies in regularity. There's an addition distinction to substance abuse. The substance must affect the brain and be capable of causing dependence. This narrows the category to just alcohol and drugs.
Substance dependence is synonymous with addiction. At this point, users will feel that they need to use a substance even if it causes harm to their life. Addictions are considered as chronic neurological diseases, and should be treated accordingly.
How do you know if you or a loved one is addicted? In addition to completing one of our addiction quizzes, there are also several signs to look for. They include:
People can develop an addiction to anything. Some people are addicted to food while others are addicted to gambling. The signs and symptoms are different for everyone. There isn't a one-size-fits-all test.
There are only symptoms that are more common than others. For example, those addicted to alcohol often drink alone, drink to relax and experience withdrawals when quitting.
The military recognizes the prevalence of substance abuse. They want to help enlisted members get back on the right track. To do this, more resources are becoming easily accessible to military personnel. There are government-funded rehab centers, and many insurance programs that cover the cost of private care. Making an effort to become sober is beneficial not only to addicted military personnel, but also to all others in their unit.
Active-duty personnel can gain access to rehab programs using several methods. They can:
a problem is identified, it is then corrected through rehab.
On top of getting patients on the right track, rehab programs hope to achieve several additional goals. Specific objectives include:
When choosing a rehab program, consider the amount of effort each program puts into personalizing individual plans.
To achieve sobriety, a personalized treatment program is designed for each patient. There is a large array of therapies available. Common options include:
In most situations, several therapies are used in a plan for optimal efficacy. Patients can also choose from either inpatient or outpatient treatment programs. Inpatient programs offer more supervision and specialized care. Outpatient programs allow for more freedom and flexibility. Patients are not refined to the clinic, and can go about their daily activities.
When personalizing a treatment program, various factors need to be taken into consideration. The most important factors include the cost of the treatment, how it will be covered, as well as:
To get a better idea of what to expect and what to look for, take a look at this drug rehab guide. It offers detailed insight on the specifics involved with various therapies and treatments.
The stresses of active duty often leads to alcohol or drug abuse and dependence. Those who are affected should not feel embarrassed to seek help. With drug and alcohol use at an all-time high, it's vital to strip the stigma away from addiction. This way, active-duty military personnel will feel more comfortable seeking help.
If you're searching for a drug rehab program, Northpoint Washington is one of the best. We offer quality treatment that increases your chances of successfully becoming sober. We're determined to help you achieve your recovery goals, and free yourself from the grasps of addiction for good.
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