The experiences that many veterans have while they are serving can be extremely difficult to deal with. Traumatic event, such as active combat and several deployments to worlds away from home can lead to drug or alcohol use, abuse, and addiction.
Veterans often struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). This can be the result of partaking in warfare or witnessing tragic events. Symptoms of PTSD can be marked by severe and unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Flashbacks, which can be so vivid that an individual feels as if he or she is relieving the horrors that have been endured.
- Cognitive issues, such as short-term and even long-term memory loss.
- Reduced self-esteem and lowered self-worth.
- Sleep issues, such as difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep (insomnia)
- Severe aggression
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems maintaining relationships
- Difficulties with securing or maintaining employment
- Feelings of hopelessness
As a result of all of these symptoms, many veterans that are suffering from PTSD often end up engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse and addiction.
Veterans that are suffering from PTSD and seek help are often prescribed prescription medications, like Valium, Xanax, and Ativan, which are highly addictive. Those who have sustained injuries while serving may be prescribed strong painkillers to help ease their pain, such as OxyContin or Vicodin, which can also be addictive. Those who do not receive prescription medications may start abusing alcohol or using illicit drugs as a way to medicate themselves and forget the experiences that they have had and the symptoms that they are feeling.
Members of the military who are actively serving can also battle addiction. While the illicit drug use is less likely among those who are currently enlisted (due to a fear of being dishonorably discharged), alcohol consumption can be problematic among active service members. Drinking is a large part of the culture of the military. Those who are serving imbibe libations as a way to relax and unwind, and as a way to deal with the stresses that they are enduring. Unfortunately, drinking can become problematic and can be carried into civilian life. An estimated 20 percent of active members of the military have stated that binge drinking is something they have partaken in at least once weekly. The rate is even higher among those who are actively serving and have been exposed to combat.