The Impact of Veteran Substance Abuse on Military Families

The Impact of Veteran Substance Abuse on Military Families

Reviewed by
A Medical Professional

Medically Verified: March 19, 2024

The Impact of Veteran Substance Abuse on Military Families

Military members and their families make many sacrifices in service to our country. The stress of deployment can weigh heavily on partners and children. Unfortunately, many veterans struggle with more stress and challenges when they return home. This can cause problems throughout the family unit.

United States Armed Forces members often face many obstacles when returning home or leaving service. They may struggle to adjust to civilian life or find their family role has changed. Some have difficulty finding or maintaining employment.

Veterans may develop mental health problems or live with physical pain related to service. Many turn to drugs or alcohol to cope–and some develop addiction.

Veteran substance abuse doesn’t just affect the veteran. It can impact their entire family. Veterans and their families require specialized, evidence-based treatment to address substance abuse.

This article will detail the impact veteran substance abuse can have on families. You will learn about the connection between veterans and substance abuse. You will also discover how families can support addiction recovery.

Contact the Alamo Behavioral Health team now to learn about our treatment programs. You can also verify your insurance or schedule an intake appointment.

Veteran Substance Abuse: An Overview

National Institute on Drug Abuse research shows that veterans have higher rates of substance abuse than the general population. But why is this the case?

Several factors contribute to higher rates of drug and alcohol use disorders among veterans and active-duty military personnel. Here are some of the most significant factors.

Pain

Many people begin their military service as young adults. However, the stress and strain of training or injuries from combat can leave people with lasting physical pain. Veterans may take prescription pain medication to cope. Many prescription painkillers contain addictive opioids.

Veterans may also rely on drugs or alcohol to manage physical pain. Self-medicating with illicit drugs or alcohol can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Veterans may return home with lasting emotional and mental effects. Intense stress, combat, and other traumatic experiences can leave a mark on people in the form of PTSD.

Veterans may use drugs or alcohol to dull the emotional pain of PTSD symptoms, which may include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling like you can’t “drop your guard:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma

Over time, substance abuse can change how the brain and body function. These changes make it very difficult to stop using drugs and alcohol.

Access

Alcohol is widely available on or near army bases. Many people begin military service as young adults (sometimes at 18) and start drinking. Binge drinking and heavy drinking may be higher among active duty service members. Early drinking can increase the risk of alcoholism later.

Veterans may also drink to cope with PTSD, pain, and stress after returning home. Prolonged periods of heavy drinking can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Substance abuse impacts every aspect of a person’s life, including their most important relationships. It’s essential to understand veteran substance abuse and seek treatment as quickly as possible.

How Does Veteran Substance Abuse Affect the Family?

When one person in a family lives with substance abuse, it affects everyone in the family. Other family members often adopt a caregiving role, which can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety about their loved one
  • Worry, guilt, or sympathy
  • Financial problems
  • Feeling frustrated or angry
  • Sadness
  • Shame

Substance abuse can change how a person looks, behaves, thinks, and feels. Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury (TBI) may also affect a person’s personality or behaviors.

Spouses and partners may feel resentful of their caretaker role. They may miss their old life and relationship with the addicted veteran. Over time, they may stop communicating with their addicted spouse. The relationship can suffer significantly.

Children of veterans with substance abuse may feel isolated, afraid, or anxious. They may take on a caretaking role or worry about their parents. Children may experience problems at school or in their own relationships with others.

The impact of veteran substance abuse can be significant. It’s important to recognize addiction and seek treatment as soon as possible. This will allow the family to heal and move forward together.

How Can Families Support Veterans With Addiction?

There are many things family members can do to support a veteran struggling with addiction. Here are some of the ways you can help a veteran in your life:

  • Learn about addiction as a disease
  • Participate in treatment
  • Stay connected to your loved one during treatment by visiting, writing letters, or talking on the phone
  • Provide practical support by offering to help with child care, rides to and from appointments, verifying insurance, etc.
  • Participating in 12-step groups or substance abuse counseling

Family involvement can help veterans stay motivated and have better outcomes in recovery.

Find Support Now

Contact the Alamo Behavioral Health specialists now to learn about our specialized substance abuse treatment programs. You may also verify your insurance, ask questions, or schedule appointments.

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The Impact of Veteran Substance Abuse on Military Families

Military members and their families make many sacrifices in service to our country. The stress of deployment can weigh heavily on partners and children. Unfortunately, many veterans struggle with more stress and challenges when they return home. This can cause problems throughout the family unit.

United States Armed Forces members often face many obstacles when returning home or leaving service. They may struggle to adjust to civilian life or find their family role has changed. Some have difficulty finding or maintaining employment.

Veterans may develop mental health problems or live with physical pain related to service. Many turn to drugs or alcohol to cope–and some develop addiction.

Veteran substance abuse doesn’t just affect the veteran. It can impact their entire family. Veterans and their families require specialized, evidence-based treatment to address substance abuse.

This article will detail the impact veteran substance abuse can have on families. You will learn about the connection between veterans and substance abuse. You will also discover how families can support addiction recovery.

Contact the Alamo Behavioral Health team now to learn about our treatment programs. You can also verify your insurance or schedule an intake appointment.

Veteran Substance Abuse: An Overview

National Institute on Drug Abuse research shows that veterans have higher rates of substance abuse than the general population. But why is this the case?

Several factors contribute to higher rates of drug and alcohol use disorders among veterans and active-duty military personnel. Here are some of the most significant factors.

Pain

Many people begin their military service as young adults. However, the stress and strain of training or injuries from combat can leave people with lasting physical pain. Veterans may take prescription pain medication to cope. Many prescription painkillers contain addictive opioids.

Veterans may also rely on drugs or alcohol to manage physical pain. Self-medicating with illicit drugs or alcohol can quickly lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Veterans may return home with lasting emotional and mental effects. Intense stress, combat, and other traumatic experiences can leave a mark on people in the form of PTSD.

Veterans may use drugs or alcohol to dull the emotional pain of PTSD symptoms, which may include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Feeling like you can’t “drop your guard:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma

Over time, substance abuse can change how the brain and body function. These changes make it very difficult to stop using drugs and alcohol.

Access

Alcohol is widely available on or near army bases. Many people begin military service as young adults (sometimes at 18) and start drinking. Binge drinking and heavy drinking may be higher among active duty service members. Early drinking can increase the risk of alcoholism later.

Veterans may also drink to cope with PTSD, pain, and stress after returning home. Prolonged periods of heavy drinking can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Substance abuse impacts every aspect of a person’s life, including their most important relationships. It’s essential to understand veteran substance abuse and seek treatment as quickly as possible.

How Does Veteran Substance Abuse Affect the Family?

When one person in a family lives with substance abuse, it affects everyone in the family. Other family members often adopt a caregiving role, which can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety about their loved one
  • Worry, guilt, or sympathy
  • Financial problems
  • Feeling frustrated or angry
  • Sadness
  • Shame

Substance abuse can change how a person looks, behaves, thinks, and feels. Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury (TBI) may also affect a person’s personality or behaviors.

Spouses and partners may feel resentful of their caretaker role. They may miss their old life and relationship with the addicted veteran. Over time, they may stop communicating with their addicted spouse. The relationship can suffer significantly.

Children of veterans with substance abuse may feel isolated, afraid, or anxious. They may take on a caretaking role or worry about their parents. Children may experience problems at school or in their own relationships with others.

The impact of veteran substance abuse can be significant. It’s important to recognize addiction and seek treatment as soon as possible. This will allow the family to heal and move forward together.

How Can Families Support Veterans With Addiction?

There are many things family members can do to support a veteran struggling with addiction. Here are some of the ways you can help a veteran in your life:

  • Learn about addiction as a disease
  • Participate in treatment
  • Stay connected to your loved one during treatment by visiting, writing letters, or talking on the phone
  • Provide practical support by offering to help with child care, rides to and from appointments, verifying insurance, etc.
  • Participating in 12-step groups or substance abuse counseling

Family involvement can help veterans stay motivated and have better outcomes in recovery.

Find Support Now

Contact the Alamo Behavioral Health specialists now to learn about our specialized substance abuse treatment programs. You may also verify your insurance, ask questions, or schedule appointments.

Reviewed by
A Medical Professional

Medically Verified: March 19, 2024

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