Many veterans struggle with substance use disorders. Addiction can easily develop during their time in the military or after they have finished serving. It’s a common problem; too many veterans lose their lives to substance use.
This Memorial Day, millions of American families will take time to honor the memory of the men and women who lost their lives fighting in one of the nation’s wars. It can be challenging for families who recently lost a loved one.
We must also never forget the countless veterans who lost their lives to addiction, drug overdose, or suicide.
In Texas are over 1.5 million veterans, most of whom are wartime vets. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.9 million veterans nationally have a substance use disorder or mental illness. Unfortunately, substance use disorders significantly increase suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also common among veterans ages 18 to 49.
“Addiction is preventable and treatable. Early intervention saves lives. Yet, it is also important for families to know where to find help and treatment,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.
Numerous causative factors lead to substance use within the veteran population. For instance, many vets struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may face financial hardships, difficulty finding employment or accessing benefits.
Many other veterans struggle with mental and emotional health problems. This can often be compounded with physical injury or chronic pain leading to pain medication use. Untreated trauma, for example, leads to drug and alcohol use to cope with unwanted feelings.
Veterans also face barriers when accessing treatment, such as costs and health insurance coverage gaps. Vets living in rural areas have limited access to treatment. Stigma regarding addiction is still problematic. Many communities have inadequate funding.
Outside of the usual support options through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA facility locator, other options may include:
Texas Veterans Commission provides support for veterans and their families;
TEXVET provides various supports and useful information for veterans and their families;
Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for vets, 1-888-777-4443;
SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans in Texas can find specific local substance use treatment.
Families also play a critical role in helping their loved ones who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s ok to express concern about their substance use. Speak to them openly and honestly about their addiction. Help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion for what they are going through; remember, addiction is treatable.
When families and communities come together, amazing things happen. It’s never too late to help veterans struggling with addiction.
Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol & drug use.