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A captain saluting during a Veteran’s Day ceremony

The Importance of Substance and Alcohol Addiction Treatment for Veterans

What does patriotism mean? If there’s anyone out there who truly knows, it’s veterans. 

Whether they’ve served in the military, navy, or air service, they’ve spent a significant portion of their lives on active or reserved duty. Some have even put their lives on the line or have been disabled in the process of serving and protecting their country.

Unfortunately, these patriots are also more susceptible to problematic use of alcohol and other substances. The rates are troubling and show a clear need for an effective intervention and  substance and alcohol addiction treatment for veterans.

Common Causes of Addiction in Veterans

Substance and alcohol use disorders don’t happen overnight. And typically, there are several factors that cause it. 

Some of these causes include:  

  • Family History

Belonging to a family with a history of substance abuse doesn’t mean everyone in that family will suffer the same fate. However, since addiction is a genetic disorder that can be passed down from one generation to the next, it’s important to note that it does increase your risk.

  • Environmental Factors

Environment and upbringing also play a role in the development of addiction. If you’ve been brought up in a home with heavy drinkers or are surrounded by people who regularly misuse drugs, then it’s possible to be influenced to engage or look at alcohol and substance abuse as normal. 

  • Trauma

Anyone can suffer from a traumatic event. However, veterans are often more susceptible to loneliness, pain, and death because they’re exposed to combat and war.

  • Mental Health Problems

Substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health problems are tightly linked, especially among veterans. 

According to studies, veterans suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, ADHD, and other mental health disorders usually have alcohol or substance abuse issues as well.

Possible Issues Veterans Face After Returning From Active Duty

The battle may be over, but these common mental illnesses will show you that veterans fight a different kind of war when they return from active duty:

1. PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Also called combat fatigue, war neurosis, and shell shock, PTSD is a disorder that can happen to anyone who has experienced a traumatic event. But the term has now been commonly used for veterans.

Because of their line of work, veterans are exposed to traumatic situations like pain, suffering, and death caused by war. Some have also suffered from military sex trauma and service injuries. All these can lead to PTSD and other mental health disorders.

Signs of PTSD Include:

  • Nightmares, vivid memories, or flashbacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating
  • Feeling emotionally cut-off from other people
  • Easily startled

The diagnosis of PTSD involves several steps. Talk to us if you want to be screened and treated for PTSD.

2. Depression

Veterans who have been to war don’t just sustain physical wounds, they also have less visible ones like depression and anxiety

Combat exposure, the stress of multiple deployments, and separation from loved ones and support systems can lead to or perpetuate depression and anxiety.

A navy officer embracing his wife before deployment

Depression is a serious condition that can impact mood, behaviour, and physical functions. Some of the common signs of depression include:

  • Persistent and intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Trouble performing everyday activities
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Social isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts

3. Suicide

Feelings of isolation and hopelessness, along with concurring mental health conditions and substance abuse are all factors that can increase the risk of suicide among veterans. 

Some of the warning signs of suicide are:

  • Rage
  • Feeling trapped
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

4. Problematic Use of Alcohol and Other Substances

Despite public attention on alcohol and substance use disorders among veterans, it continues to be a problem.

That’s because many veterans turn to alcohol or other substances as a coping mechanism for stress, depression, and trauma. Veterans who have been diagnosed with substance use disorder often have a concurring mental health issue.

For example, a veteran with an alcohol abuse problem might also be suffering from depression. Both conditions must be treated together, otherwise, it might lead to serious health complications down the road.

What Statistics are Saying 

Let’s turn these problems into numbers:

 A black and white image of two soldiers in the battlefield holding high-power rifles

Substance and Alcohol Addiction Treatment for Veterans

Clearly, these numbers show it’s imperative that more effective measures to address our veterans healthcare needs are met. This includes substance and alcohol addiction treatment for veterans.

We owe them more than just remembrance and a thank you once a year. If we couldn’t be with them when they were at war, we can be with them now.

Freedom From Addiction is a world-class rehab facility in Aurora, Ontario that has a multi-pronged approach in the treatment of PTSD, alcohol, and substance use disorders.

If you or someone you know needs to be screened and treated for PTSD, get in touch with us today.


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