Military Alcohol and Drug Rehab for Veterans
In war, the plight of our service men and women who have fought for our country is generally overlooked. However, those who are claiming compensation for mental health issues
resulting from their military service, has now hit record levels. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very real condition. Sufferers can resort to self medicating the distressing symptoms with alcohol, drugs and prescription pills. This life threatening condition should not be underestimated, as some sadly go on to take their own life. The true impact of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is gradually coming to light, as more and more service men and women are seeking help for alcohol and drug addiction problems. Many feel alone
in their plight, but it is important to remember that there is professional help and support available and that a full recovery is possible.
The symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder do not always manifest immediately, they can take time to show. Often, when an individual returns home from a long period away at war, their minds are kept occupied catching up with family and friends and adjusting to civilian life. It is usually once the dust has started to settle, and they beginning to find their feet again, that the terrifying symptoms of PTSD start to reveal themselves.
Service men and women, although highly skilled and trained to deal with all kinds of life threatening and dangerous situations, are just men and women like you and me. Nothing can prepare them for atrocities of war, or how they are to live with themselves and what they have witnessed when they return back home. There is not enough comprehensive support and treatment provided by the government, they are often left to deal with the emotional aftermath of war on their own.
Whilst statistics indicate that that the general figure of military men and women who suffer PTSD is quite low, at 7 percent. This figure relates to the small minority of those that were involved in the actual fighting. It also does not include the many military personnel who have suffered anxiety, depression, panic disorder and other related mental health issues as a direct result of working in the military.
Alcohol and drug rehab for current and former military has become more common over the last two decades; this is attributed to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. The statistical figure is likely to rise, as more and more men and women come forward for treatment. As a general rule, society seems to be more accepting of the fact that those returning from active duty overseas are at higher risk of substance abuse, addiction and co occurring mental health illnesses. Alcohol and drug rehabs in the UK are well aware of the rise and are offering more specialist treatment in response to the rising demand.
Why Military personnel are at Risk
Military Personnel are exposed to terrifying sights and situations that they would not normally encounter in every day to day life. These high risk and high stress events are prone to leaving mental scars on the individual. Being involved in combat, leaves the individual exposed to the body’s “flight or fight” response. Trained to fight, they are forced to go against their instinct to protect themselves, and instead lay their lives on the line for the country that they serve. This unnatural response impacts on the individual both mentally and physically, as they are almost forced to switch off their emotions in order to cope with the atrocities of war. Many find these situations come back to haunt them at a
Alcohol and drug addiction can have a number of contributing factors. For some, drugs or alcohol stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain at levels most of us will never experience. It is this intense pleasure response that quickly leads to abuse and addiction. In others, the big trigger is stress or trauma. This is where the military service are at higher risk than the rest of us. Serving in the military is highly stressful whether one goes into combat or not. When combat is part of the equation, stress levels can go through the roof. Military alcohol and drug rehab programmes are equipped to treat both the substance abuse problem and the co occurring illness underpinning it. It is vital that both are treated simultaneously as one is a trigger for the other and both have the capacity to ruin lives.
Stephanie S. Covington
How can co-occurring PTSD and substance addiction create problems?
When an individual suffers from both PTSD and an addiction to alcohol or drugs, it is likely that they will also suffer other personal issues, such as physical pain, problematic relationships, financial problems and difficulty in maintainingt a job or a implementing a healthy structure to their daily lives. By using alcohol or drugs to try and cope with PTSD, the individual may well be inadvertently increasing their symptoms and making things much worse for themselves. The relief they gain is temporary, and repeated
use and abuse can lead to a dependency and addiction.
Here are some examples of how a substance abuse/addiction problem can increase the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress:
- One of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress is Insomnia. Insomnia can be distressing and tiring especially when your head is whirling around with thoughts or images relating to a past trauma. Some may choose to turn to alcohol or prescription drugs in order to self medicate. This only aggravates the problem, as the underlying cause is left untreated. Alcohol causes poor quality sleep and sleeping tablets have a short term effect only. With both, the individual would need to use them in increasing amounts over time to gain the same effect. Both alcohol and sleeping pills are depressants, so there is a tendency for the individual to become low in mood when using them on a long term basis.
- Drinking and drugging to suppress feelings created by PTSD only prolongs the cycle of avoidance of the real issue. By avoiding the cause of the trauma, the individual is not dealing with it. The problem is very unlikely to go away on its own and by using drink and drugs as a form of self treatment, they are only creating an additional problem that may also require professional intervention and support. By using alcohol and drugs to self medicate PTSD, the individual is increasing their chances of becoming very depressed, anxious and even suicidal. They are also more likely to engage in high risk behaviour whilst under the influence.
- PTSD can cause all kinds of negative emotions including numbness, irritability, anger, solemnis, anxiety and paranoia. Using alcohol and/or drugs to try and suppress these feelings only cause them to get worse in the long term. The individual can also experience them more intensely whilst intoxicated and be more at risk of harming themselves or others.
- Using alcohol and drugs to excess is likely to impact on other areas of the individual’s life, they may find themselves drink driving, neglecting family and responsibilities, or getting involved in criminal activity for instance. It is never going to lead to a positive outcome. The sufferer is unlikely to see what is happening to them, it may come down to their family and friends to urge them to get help.
Using alcohol and drugs as a solution to any problem is never a good idea, but when used to self medicate a mental health illness or condition the consequences can be devastating, both to the individual sufferer and to their family and loved ones. Both PTSD and alcohol and drug addiction can lead to severe and debilitating depression. A combination of both conditions can be lethal for the sufferer. The individual may feel that their life is not worth living, or that their family may be better off without them as a burden.
Stephanie S. Covington
Post – Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic or stressful event. It affects the suffer both mentally, physically and emotionally. Those who have suffered it once are more predisposed to developing it again or to a more severe extent in response to further stress or trauma.
There are a number of factors that can trigger a trauma; here are a few that would relate to those that serve in the military:
- The individual was unprepared for what happened
- The individual felt overwhelmed by the experience
- The individual experienced a life threatening situation
- The individual experienced cruelty to themselves or to another human being
- The individual witnessed someone being hurt or killed
- The individual was physically/sexually attacked
- The individual felt powerless to stop or take control of the event
As the name suggests, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms manifest after the actual traumatic event has occurred. The thoughts and feelings that the individual experiences are a delayed response to the traumatic event. It is estimated that as many as 30 percent of all veteran PTSD sufferers go on to develop an alcohol or drug problem. The reason being, is that they use the substance to try and dampen or block out the distressing feelings, memories and thoughts they are experiencing. In reality the figure may be many more. Most sufferers do not realise that there is professional treatment and support available both privately and on the NHS. They may also feel that they are weak for not being able to deal with the feelings in the first place. Addiction Helper specialise in treatment for substance abuse and PTSD. Call us now to talk through the options and find long term recovery for you or your loved one.
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how to spot it
So what are the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
If you or a loved one are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress and served in the military, a group of psychological and physical symptoms are likely to surface. You or your loved one may experience any of the following, or perhaps all of the following :
Psychological Symptoms of PTSD
- Feelings of numbness and emptiness
- Suicidal ideation or self-harm tendencies
- Mood swings, especially abnormal sorrow
- Panic and anxiety attacks
- Feelings of loneliness and tendency to isolate
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Anger, Aggression, Agitation
- Suspicion of others (unwarranted)
- Seeking out risky or dangerous activities.
- Depression, Low self esteem, nervousness
- Feeling of not being part of, or difficulty in connecting with others
- Unable to think of anything else, except for the event
- Poor concentration
Physical Symptoms of PTSD
- Insomnia – Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Sweats, especially at night or when feeling anxious
- Chronic pain
- Nausea and poor appetite
- Tension Headache
- Rapid Heartbeat and high blood pressure
- Feeling lethargic and aching muscles
- Self Harm/ Self abuse/ Suicide attempts
As you can see the symptoms of PTSD are debilitating and distressing. The sufferer will undoubtedly feel very alone. Everyone around them will seem to be carrying on with their day to day lives, whilst they feel stuck in the past and powerless to more forward. Families will rejoice at their loved ones return back home, safe from war, but the sufferer is likely to bring a sadness and change in personality with them. Without specialist treatment these symptoms can lead to suicide or a drug and alcohol related premature death. If you or a loved one are displaying symptoms of post war PTSD, it is important that you seek professional help urgently.
Brain injury and substance abuse in the Military
Traumatic brain injury can result from a violent blow or shake to the head, that in turn causes the individual’s brain to suffer nerve damage as a result of colliding with the skull. Studies have found that that between 10 and 20 percent of individuals who suffer a traumatic brain injury, go on to develop a substance abuse problem. Many individuals in the field of combat receive traumatic blows to the head. Their symptoms are often dismissed with a prescription for opioid painkillers and without the correct medical investigations being carried out. Traumatic Brain injury can cause nerve damage that interrupts the correct functioning of brain’s pleasure receptors and neurotransmitters; this can lead to the individual seeking replacement pleasure from alcohol, drugs and prescription pills such as codeine based painkillers.
Of those affected by mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the Military showed a 2.6 times higher rate of alcohol and drug addiction than the general population that suffer the same condition. For moderate TBI the rates are even higher, with 5.4 times more veterans suffering from alcohol and drug addiction than those with the same condition in the general public. The reason for this is thought to be attributed to veterans not receiving the correct medical care and psychological treatment at the time of the TBI occurring. With no family or loved ones to turn to whilst on the battlefield, they invariably turn to alcohol and drugs as a comfort and to numb the pain.
Traumatic Brain Injury in veterans is quite common, but tends to be overshadowed by PTSD. In 2008, an article was published by JAMA, stating that up to 30 percent of all veterans who were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq could have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury during the period of their service. This alarming figure indicates that there could be many more undiagnosed cases. In addition it has also been found that veterans who have suffered a TBI are far more likely to develop PTSD than those who have not; placing this group of individuals at a very high risk of developing an alcohol or substance misuse problem.
Another factor to consider with a Traumatic Brain Injury is that the symptoms do not always present themselves straight away but can appear weeks after the trauma happening. Without the correct medical care these symptoms can last for months, and some may even be permanent. If you or your loved one have suffered a violent blow to the head and start to experience any of the following symptoms, it is always best to get checked by a medical professional straight away:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of balance and/or coordination
- Slurred or slowed speech
- Memory loss
- Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of consciousness or feeling dazed when the trauma happened
- Persistent headache or neck pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Disrupted sleep pattern, sleeping more than usual or unable to fall and stay asleep
- Poor concentration levels and easily becoming confused or distracted
- Mood swings, especially uncharacteristic bouts of anger, tears, anxiety and agitation
- Loss or altered sense of taste and smell
Alcohol and drug use in the Military
Many ex service men and women started to abuse alcohol or drugs whilst working in the field. It will have been their way of unwinding from a stressful day. In the military, binge drinking and prescription drug taking is seen as an acceptable way of coping amongst troops. There is little in terms of psychological support whilst they are at war and they often only have each other to turn to for Support. The army has a zero tolerance policy for the misuse of drugs and alcohol, therefore very few will admit they
have a problem and will try their utmost to keep it hidden from those in charge. Continuing to drink and drug when back home, may seem to ease the transition back into civilian street, when in fact it is only causing further problems. They may also use it to avoid the painful memories of war and dampen heightened emotions. Amphetamine and Stimulant abuse is common amongst those that serve in the army. They are required to stay awake and alert for long periods of time. Speed and Cocaine can assist them mentally and physically. They may then find that they then come home with an addiction that they are unable to give up.
Alcohol is more socially acceptable than drugs and easier to hide from the random illicit drug tests that soldiers are required to take when in service. Binge drinking on leave is commonplace amongst servicemen and women. Going home, there is the added pressure and expectation from family and loved ones, whom are keen to have the individual back in their day to day lives. This can cause their alcohol and drug use to escalate rapidly, to alarming levels, as they try to readjust on their return home from service.
Prescription Drug abuse in the military
It is not just alcohol and illicit drugs that have a tendency to be abused by those suffering from military related post traumatic stress disorder. Prescription drugs, in particular benzodiazepines, sleeping tablets, Dextroamphetamine (a stimulant used to treat ADHD) and opiate pain killers are commonly abused. All of these prescription drugs are very addictive and should never be used for longer than a couple of weeks at at a time. Using these drugs for prolonged periods of time leads to dependency and addiction.
The history of pharmaceutic drug abuse in the Military goes back to 1st World War. During the Vietnam war, American soldiers were readily supplied with Speed (Dextroamphetamine) by the Military. This now illicit drug was actually prescribed to those in combat and on long-range reconnaissance and ambushes. The amphetamine came with dosage instructions, which was rarely followed by its users. The drug was prescribed to assist the soldiers in their alertness, increase awareness and response and keep concentration levels up for extended period of time. Soldiers deployed to combat areas where provided with “medical kits”, made up from Dexedrine (Speed), Darvon (a mild painkiller) and Codeine (an opioid analgesic). Those deployed for long and demanding expeditions were also given a course of steroid injections prior to deployment. It is easy to see where the ready acceptance for abuse of prescribed drugs stems from. In the past prescription drugs were used to enhance soldiers performance, rather than just treat symptoms.
Today, the NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) highlights opioid painkillers as a major concern for growing abuse and addiction.
Between 2001 and 2009 the number of pain reliever prescriptions issued by military physicians quadrupled to a staggering 3.8 million. Soldiers are left to their own devices when it comes to administering the strong pain relieving medication, due to being on deployment for lengthy periods of time. Opiate painkillers are highly addictive and withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant. Rather than withdraw from pain medication prescribed during time in the military, some opt to carry on with their prescription back in civilian street. This addiction can lead them to feigning symptoms to their GP in order to get repeat prescriptions without question. Long term abuse of prescription drugs can lead to dependency and depression. Suicide rates amongst ex service members are also higher amongst those that abuse prescription drugs.
Benzodiazepines and sleeping tablets are helpful for those who suffer short term anxiety or insomnia, but for someone with confirmed PTSD there is unlikely to be a quick fix. Both are addictive and difficult to withdraw from. Using these medications for more than a couple of weeks at a time can lead to dependency and addiction. Medical treatment is then usually required to help the individual to wean off the medication safely without further risk to their mental and physical health.
Female veterans suffering from PTSD
Females are genetically predisposed to be far more likely to develop PTSD than men. A female’s response to fear is far greater than that of a man. This means that females in the military are at higher risk of developing PTSD or a similar condition. Females are also likely to experience more severe symptoms than men suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This genetical factor puts female military in a high risk group of developing PTSD (or similar) and from developing a substance or alcohol abuse problem. In fact women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men; with 1 in 9 females receiving a confirmed diagnosis of the condition.
A females increased response to trauma is reflected in the statistics relating to the abuse of prescription medications. Female veterans are 4 times more likely to abuse or become addicted to a prescription medication than a civilian female. Statistics have shown that as many as 10 percent of females who have served in the military have been subjected to rape by another soldier. It is not surprising with these facts in mind, that military females are 6 times more likely to commit suicide than civilian females.
Females who develop an alcohol or substance abuse problem, deteriorate more rapidly than men. Their genetics mean that their bodies are less resilient than men when it comes to processing alcohol and drugs. Females tend to reach crisis point far quicker than men do. However, they too struggle to ask for help, often due to being mothers to young children or feeling shame and guilt around their problem. It is important if you are suffering or know of a loved one that is suffering, that support and help is accessed as soon as possible. Alcoholism, drug addiction and co occurring conditions take lives needlessly. There is compassionate professional support and treatment available. Call Addiction Helper now, for a free and confidential assessment and expert addiction treatment advice.
Suicides rates amongst Soldiers
In the section on Female veterans it was highlighted that suicide rates amongst female soldiers are 6 times more likely than female civilians. A staggering 20 percent of all suicides are that of a soldier. If this statistic alone does not ring alarm bells, then i’m not sure what will. Veterans are at higher risk of suicide than civilians for the following reasons:
- They are far more likely to be subjected to traumatic events whilst in service.
- Their close relationships are put under constant strain due to long periods of deployment
- They are far more likely to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or a similar mental health illness
- They are at higher risk of developing an alcohol or substance misuse problem
- They are at higher risk of suffering a chronic pain injury or traumatic brain injury
- 33 percent of all returning soldiers are still addicted to prescription drugs to treat PTSD and chronic pain conditions
- They have difficulty adjusting from the regimented and purpose driven life of the military to the unstructured day to day living of civilian street
- They are unequipped to process or live with the feelings of guilt and shame at having witnessed or being involved in some of the atrocities of war
- There is insufficient specialist help and support when they return back home
- They are less likely to ask for help due to being seen as strong and self sufficient
Suicide amongst soldiers, especially those that suffer from substance abuse and co occurring conditions, is a very real threat. We urge you to to seek help promptly if you or your loved one are struggling. There is no need to suffer in silence.
Military Alcohol and Drug Rehab in the UK
National statistics show that as many as 3 in 10 veterans suffering from PTSD, also suffer from a substance abuse disorder. In reality, the figure is likely to be far higher. The stigma associated to alcohol and drug addiction, tends to stop or postpone individuals from seeking help. In particular, veteran men and women are seen as strong and self sufficient individuals; needing help for a mental health issue or substance abuse problem is likely to be difficult for them to come to terms with.
Services on the NHS are limited for the treatment of PTSD in the military. Whilst there are numerous support groups and charities available, few find that this type of help is intensive enough to combat their condition when there is a alcohol or drug issue present. Those that have developed an addiction or substance abuse problem as a result of PTSD, have the two issues to deal with and tend to be complex cases. Sadly the NHS is ill-equipped to give these men and women the treatment and support that they so desperately need and deserve.
Whatever the support and treatment is that you or your loved one seek out, it is imperative that it treats both the PTSD, co occurring condition and the substance abuse issue at the same time. Leaving one untreated will only bring the individual back to the same place they were before the treatment, or worse.
In the UK there are specialist facilities that offer alcohol and drug detox as well as treatment for post traumatic stress. Addiction helper works with these rehab facilities to ensure that ex-service men and women have the opportunity to address their co occurring illnesses and substance abuse problems. Recovery is possible and accessible, we aim to help our veterans to go on to lead the content and peaceful life that they have so deservedly earned.
Rehabs in the UK specialising in Military alcohol and drug abuse tend to be fully residential clinics. They offer a safe and secure environment in which the individual can recover, away from temptation, and the stress and expectations of daily life and from others. These treatment centres offer full medical detox facilities alongside a full therapeutic program to assist with the rehabilitation process. Addiction Helper can offer a number of locations in the UK, with both short term and long term programs available. The Military treatment clinics are staffed by trained and qualified, experienced professionals. The rehabs team are likely to include Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Counsellors, Doctors, Nurses, Mental Health workers, Recovery Support workers and Holistic therapists. We can also provide expert treatment overseas.
Military Rehabs are no different from other alcohol and drug treatment clinics, however what sets them apart is that their Counsellors and Psychologists will be trained in treating trauma. Alcohol and drug rehab starts with a complete medical assessment that determines the seriousness of the person’s situation. In the event detox is necessary, it can be provided by the rehabs medical staff. This is clinically proven to be the safest way to undergo a detox from alcohol or drugs.
Due to the high levels of support, care and supervision, in a distraction free environment, Addiction Helper strongly leans towards residential care for those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and an alcohol or drug problem.
If you or someone you love is struggling with PTSD or substance abuse, please contact Addiction Helper right away. One of our trained addiction Counsellors will assist you in understanding your problem and finding you the correct professional treatment and support.
Treatment Program for Military PTSD and Substance Abuse
Electing to go into a Alcohol and Drug rehab centre will undoubtedly give you or your loved one the best chance of overcoming alcohol and drug addiction, as well as dealing with the trauma that is underpinning it. Alcohol and Drug rehab therapy treats the individual as a whole person, this means that as well as safely eradicating the substance from the individual’s body, they will undergo an intensive therapeutic program designed to treat any co occurring illnesses and conditions. Rehabs specialise in delivering clinically proven addiction treatments. The majority of these treatments are also highly effective in successfully treating any co occurring illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. If you or a loved one are suffering from military related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a substance misuse problem, Addiction Helper will ensure you or they are placed in a rehab centre that offers specialist treatment. The treatment program that is offered is likely to include the following therapies:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Medical Detox
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)
- One to One Counselling
- Trauma Therapy
- Group Therapy
- Process Therapy
- Holistic Therapies which may include: Acupuncture, Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Relaxation, Fitness Program, Art and Music Therapy, Mindfulness, Reiki.
As well as undergoing a full therapeutic program, you or your loved one will also have the option of an aftercare package. Addiction helper can provided One to One counselling aftercare with a Counsellor that specialises in the treatment of addiction and PTSD. We can arrange this locally, to continue in addressing the illness and ensure that you or your loved one stays on the right track, sober and clean from alcohol and drugs. Other options that are available are long term secondary care programmes and sober living accommodation; the therapeutic and structured environment is particularly beneficial for those suffering from dual diagnosis or a co occurring illness. Please call us to find out more.
Does Military alcohol and drug rehab work?
The short answer to this is yes! Recovery from this destructive and life threatening illness is entirely possible with the correct help and support. You need not feel alone in your suffering. There is specialist treatment available both privately in rehab services and on the NHS through government funded rehabs, local drug and alcohol services and specialist charities. Addiction Helper is the leading authority on addiction treatment and rehab services in the UK; we will ensure that you receive a tailored treatment package that meets all of your medical, psychological, emotional and spiritual quirements. Military alcohol and drug rehab could be the the key to freedom you or your loved one are searching for. For more information on our Military rehabs in the UK and Overseas, please call us now and speak to one of our trained Counsellors who will be happy to help you in any way that they can. Addiction Helper are passionate about saving lives, we can provide you with the professional services required to make a full and lasting recovery, free from the misery, pain and terror of addiction and PTSD.
Written by Sam Harding