Since September 11, 2001, more than 2.5 million troops have been deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. With the return of our veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan also come their wounds, physical and psychological. Among these wounds are traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as the many physical injuries from war. Studies have shown that a large percentage return with mental disorders leading to drug abuse or addiction and alcohol abuse. There is much room for improvement in care for drug and alcohol-related problems for our veterans.
At the top of the list for drug abuse is prescription drug abuse. According to NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), prescription drug abuse doubled from 2002 – 2005 among military personnel and almost tripled between 2005 and 2008. Illegal drug use has declined while alcohol abuse has increased. The Pentagon reported that from 2005 until 2009, the number of troops with substance abuse disorders jumped by 50%. Another Pentagon study shows that veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq are 63% more likely to drink heavily than veterans of any other wars.
We must find help for our veterans who are suffering with substance abuse today.
Throughout history, our young men have gone off to war, proud to be doing something for their country. Today, women are also joining in this heritage. These dedicated individuals leave behind parents, wives, husbands, children, and friends who worry daily that their brave loved one might die in battle or return home with missing limbs. It rarely crosses anyone’s mind that their loved one will come home mentally broken or addicted to some type of prescription drug or alcohol, but this has been the case for thousands of our military personnel.
Among individuals who have had PTSD, approximately 31% have also abused or had drug dependency in their lifetime.
Within individuals suffering from PTSD approximately 40% have either abused or been addicted to alcohol.
Returning combat service members have a higher rate of alcohol and substance abuse than civilians of the same age who have not seen combat.
On any given night about 154,000 veterans are homeless and more than 70% of them suffer from substance abuse.
Active duty suicides from last year total 350 according to the Pentagon. The suicide number for active duty has more than doubled since 2001.
Deployed individuals are 31% more likely than non-deployed to develop binge drinking. 47% of all active duty service members reported binge drinking in 2008
Pain reliever prescriptions (which can be highly addictive) written by military physicians have quadrupled between 2001 and 2009—to almost 3.8 million.
- StopYourAddiction.com information on addiction and treatment:
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
- TBI FAQ’s
- Alcohol Use After Traumatic Brain Injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Resource – BrainLine.org offers facts, information, resources, and support for preventing, treating, and living with TBI.
- Deployment-Related Traumatic Brain Injury and Co-Occurring Conditions
A Course for Civilian Health Care Providers from BrainLineMilitary.org
- Topics in Brief: Substance Abuse among the Military, Veterans, and their Families
- Report: Substance Use Disorders in the U.S. Armed Forces from the Institute of Medicine
- The Partnership at Drugfree.org
Returning Combat Veterans at Increased Risk for Alcohol Problems
Co-Occurring Disorders in Veterans and Military Service Members
- Veterans Crisis Line Website
- Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
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