Substance Abuse among Veterans with PTSD

Substance Abuse among Veterans with PTSD

There are so many illnesses affecting the political, economic as well as the social aspect if the human species nowadays.  In relation to this context, we will try to find out whether individuals with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be able to lead normal and productive lives in the society, especially war veterans. We will also look at how these veterans turn to substance abuse especially when they fail to seek professional help. This is when compared to other individuals who have sought professional help after they have been diagnosed with the disease. To understand this concept better, we need to define what post traumatic stress disorder is all about.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as a disturbing medical condition which may appears after experiencing traumatic events (d’Ardenne et al, 2010). These events may have only occurred once or they may have repeated themselves. Good examples of traumatic events include; rape cases, death threat and assaults with injuries among many others (McNally, 2010). When an individual undergoes such traumatic events and does not seek help, the memories of these situations may cause severe trauma and a lot of stress, hence the title of the disorder (Weine et al, 2010). Therefore, medical practitioners all over the world call for individuals who may have undergone any traumatic events to seek professional help soonest possible. This is aimed at help these individuals to confront these situations, accept them and move on with life with a positive attitude (Jankovic et al, 2009). Individuals who do not seek help end up showing severe stress and other incomprehensible behavior (Klaric et al, 2010). These symptoms may even lead self inflicted injuries out of powerlessness, horror or even unexplained fear, which may even lead to their deaths (Hauff & Vaglum, 2011). These deaths can either be suicidal or by accident. Exposure to different forms of violence is also a major cause of post traumatic stress disorder (Lie, 2002). This may be violence in teaching or working institutions, at war zones or even family violence. In fact, researches done on soldiers who have been on intense war zones shows that tend to inhibit sever posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (Frue, Elhai & Kaloupek, 1974).

Looking at the above information keenly, it is very evident that individuals who do not seek treatment from the post traumatic disorder cannot be able to live normal and productive lives. This is because they keep experiencing horrifying flashbacks from traumatizing situations (De Jong et al, 2011). A good example would be an ex soldier who has been in a war frontline, working in a textile industry. If this ex soldier develops post traumatic stress disorder, then he/she cannot be able to perform to maximum potential (Brewin, Andrew & Valentine, 2010). This is especially not in an environment where there are noises in the factory all the time. For instance, machines in a factory and other products can trigger memories of a gun fight at any moment. This may make an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD to confuse the situation with horrific experiences and who knows what dangers he might cause to his work mates? In short, being in the company of a person who have been at a warzone, and has not sought professional help on PTSD is exposing self to danger.  In fact, most of these veterans turn to drug abuse when they cannot cope with effects of PTSD.

When these veterans turn to drugs, they become just like every other persons in the society who have taken up this practice as the solution to their problems. These veterans take up all kinds of drugs including; alcohol, cocaine, heroin, bhang among many others. What we fail to understand is that when our veterans turn to practices like drugs, it is the whole community that gets affected.

In fact, there are numerous statistical evidences into this matter, investigating just how much our veterans have turned to substance abuse especially when they are struggling with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are many types of substances associated with our veterans (Klaric et al, 2010). For instance, it is well known that our veterans have a tendency of smoking and even drinking. There is also the fact that our veterans also use other hardcore substances. Numerous researches have been carried out and have indeed confirmed that there is a significant problem of substance abuse among our service men. When most people hear of substance abuse among our service men they relate it with the ones who were deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn areas in the Middle East (De Jong et al, 2011). However, research has shown that substance abuse among our service men is something that has been on the rise in the recent years, although it has its root in the American Revolution. Although these cases increased among the veterans who were involved in the Middle East wars and did not seek help thereafter, we can say that our service men have a tendency of substance abuse. This is a habit that is picked by many of the service men either during their servitude in war or even thereafter. These habits are mostly accredited to combat stress which may be brought about by traumatic brain injuries, physical injuries in times of combat as well as PTSD (D’ Ardenne et al, 2010). PTSD is the most common effect that leads veterans to substance abuse.

Numerous researches have been done in this field and it has been found that after servicemen return from their assignments in combat, some of them find difficulty in adjusting to their normal lives (Brewin et al, 2010). Others even start losing their track in life while they are in combat. For instance, if we were to compare different findings that have been done in relation to veterans and substance abuse, it shows that many service men start using substances when in combat and after they are safely at home. For instance, there was a research done within substance abuse among veterans who went to Iraq. This research showed that drinking and alcohol problems among service men in the U.S had increased from 15 to 20 percent in a matter of just years (Buckley, 2009). As if that was not enough, another research was carried out to investigate just how serious alcohol abuse had take root in these soldiers who had been sent to Iraq and the results were just as devastating. The research showed that 12 to 15 percent out of 88,205 soldiers had serious alcohol problems that needed professional intervention.

There was another research which was carried out in the same time, which was referred to as a 2-item survey. In this survey, out of 627 soldiers who had served in Iraq, 27 percent of them were positively screened for alcohol misuse (McNally, 2010). This was especially during their service time in this country and even cases of lateness and hangovers were observed by their seniors. This meant that even these soldiers at times they could not even perform to their maximum potential since the effects of these substances would still be in their heads. When these veterans come home, if they do not seek help then they are a danger to themselves and also to the society, since they drain all of their problems to alcohol (Klaric et al, 2010). In fact, this is highlighted as one of the reasons why we have so many road accidents among veterans since research shows that only 50% of them seek help upon their return. According to statistics, an estimated 45% of all road accidents costs in the United States are alcohol related. What is most disheartening is that it is not the drunk driver who foots the entire bill. Instead, other people who maybe do not even consume alcohol (society) have to settle almost half of the total alcohol-related road accident costs. For instance, in 1999, alcohol-related road accidents accounted for approximately 16% of the total monetary compensation made by motor vehicle insurance companies. Additionally, in the same year, the financial cost to society topped out at 80 cents per ever drink consumed; 40 cents of this cost was contributed by other members of society other than the reckless drunk driver. All injured alcohol-related survivors must also bear the burden of health care costs as well as that of lost productivity. As such, it is crystal clear that alcohol consumption is bad for society. Be it through road accidents or personal health complications, the fact that alcohol ruins one’s personal life is not a matter of argument

As if that was not enough, these veterans are reported to adopt other substances like tobacco and even bhang in their service. For instance, there was a research which was carried out on the use of tobacco on Iraq servicemen and the results were disheartening. In this survey, it showed that servicemen take up tobacco use when they are in service, habits that they bring back to their home country. This survey showed that after deployment, 58.3 percent of 156 males used tobacco while initially; only 51.9 percent of them did smoke (Klaric et al, 2010). The same results were reflected on female gender as 51.2 percent of female servicewomen smoked tobacco when only 41.7 percent of them initially did. These veterans cited many reason as to why they were drawn to use of these substances including; boredom, stress in combat and addiction among other factors (Klaric et al, 2010). These service men say they would like to drop the habits they pick to relive stress during combat once they return home, but if one never seeks help it never happens.

Substance abuse among veterans with untreated PTSD becomes even more disturbing to veterans who have families to lead/have wives and children. This is bearing in mind that if a veteran developed an addiction for a certain substance he got into because of PTSD, then coming out of it would be a very big challenge. Alcohol is the main substance that veterans with PTSD turn to although others even turn to hardcore drugs. Therefore, I will discuss alcohol as the major substance abused by veterans who have untreated PTSD. According to McNally (2010), veterans with untreated PTSD turn to substance like alcohol because they do not want to remember their experiences in combat, especially in cases where there was intense fire exchange leaving a huge pile of casualties. When this trauma is not treated, some of these veterans even take up alcohol abuse, leading to some even selling their houses and everything else they have to an extent of becoming homeless. This is more so to veterans who are usually in denial of needing help and end up tormenting their families with unbecoming behaviors from substances, sometimes even leading to serious issue like separation or divorce.

When it comes to veterans who have untreated PTSD and they happen to be married, the scenario is the same and so many devastating effects can be witnessed all over. In most cases of violence against partners, alcohol is normally involved, and the percentage falls if other people other than spouses are involved. This is because when people live under one roof, opportunities for violent experiences increase. In fact, many partners filing for divorce on the basis of violent encounters cite alcohol as having played a significant role in the entire debacle. The social problem of partner battering is even more pronounced if both partners are heavy drinkers because the wife and her husband are more likely to engage in negative interactions as they engage in problem-solving tasks. In addition, the male ego of household control soars when alcohol is involved and this usually leads to violent encounters. Thus, because alcohol impairs one’s problem-solving abilities, any attempt at problem solving coupled with the feeling of dominion tends to result in aggressive acts. Ultimately, alcohol abuse not only ends up destroying families but also taking away a joyous, healthy family life for other players within the household. Consequently, since a firm society must be premised on strong families, then, society is inevitably crippled by alcohol.

If we were to put family matters aside, there is the fact that alcohol bring has other undisputable cons, including all kinds of unintentional injuries. Statistics reveal that a significant percentage of an assortment of non-traffic-related unintentional injuries – burn/fire, drowning, hypothermia/cold, gunshot, fall, and poisoning among the veterans were are alcohol-related (Frueh et al 2011). However, the fact that alcohol is somehow involved in these unintentional injuries is not an explicit indication that drinking actually caused them, but the fact that alcohol plays a critical causal role cannot be disputed. In fact, psychology has demonstrated that alcohol consumption impairs an individual’s cognitive and psychomotor abilities and this increases one’s risk of injury (Counselling for Care Givers, 2007). Thus, whether these unintentional injuries end up in death or not, they definitely have considerable social and economic impact in terms of medical costs, care for the victims, and diminished or even lost workplace productivity.

Other than destruction of families, untreated PTSD among veterans can also have so many devastating effects in our country at large. For instance, even when these veterans come back home and try to get jobs, if they do not seek jobs they are also doomed to fail in them (Hagland, 2007). They also add a troubling burden to their insurance companies as well as to all the taxpayers in this country. This is because continued alcohol misuse and dependence costs the American society enormous sums in the tune of billions of dollars. This is primarily due to loss of economic productivity occasioned by alcohol-induced injuries, illnesses, and crime. Whether individuals are admitted in alcoholism treatment facilities, serving jail terms for alcohol-related crimes, or lying in hospital beds due to alcohol-related violence or injuries, their relative incapacity represents a fall in workplace productivity (Lehman et al, 1986). In addition, workplace absenteeism, injuries, poor job performance, and turnover are all undesirable outcomes of underage alcohol consumption, which have a serious bearing on the whole society. Absenteeism due to alcohol-related sicknesses costs the economy and society a great deal, with heavy drinkers accounting for the highest rate of workplace absenteeism and ultimately the highest loss to society. If it were not for alcohol consumption then, the money lost could be diverted to other pressing social development projects for the benefit of all. Instead, however, it is society that ends up incurring losses that could have been avoided.

Other than breaking of families, substance abuse has many other negative effects among these veterans just like other drug users. According to Buckley (2009), the effects of drug and substance abuse are classified individuals effects (mainly long-term) and community effects (mainly long-term). The short-term effects mainly affect the individual while the long-term effects affect mainly the community the individual lives in, though some also affect the individual. The individual effects affect the physical and emotional health of the abusers. The short-term effects include suffocation, hallucinations, and acute mood swings when abused over a long period, the inhalants which include but are not limited to glue, thinner, cocaine and petrol can cause nausea, brain damage (irreversible), severe damage of the nervous system, hepatitis, nosebleeds and even death. In the end, drug abuse has acute damages that it causes to the body, which includes stomach cancers, ulcers and other stomach related ailments, permanent memory loss, failure of the heart and the nervous system and circulatory system, liver damage and skin problems (Counsellig for Care Givers, 2007). Some drugs also result in a low sex drive.

In addition, drug and substance abusers are likely to have problems while relating to their family, community and every other member in the society. Many of these people face problems with the law as most result to illegal acts. In addition, those who may not have resorted to such extreme measures may be caught by authorities while drinking and driving under the influence.  Other effects of drug abuse to these veterans include engaging in unprotected sex, and we all know the affects of unprotected sex especially with strangers. They include; unplanned pregnancies, STDs, HIV/AIDs and babies born with Fetal Alcohol Effects.

Substance abuse is a member of the whole community and it is not only veterans who are affected by the vice. In the community, the drug abusers can cause a security risk. Except for the violence and disruption caused by most drug users when under influence, some would result to robbery under violence to get money to fund their activities. In addition, drug users tend to become the members who push the society behind. For instance, in a schooling situation, instead of students completing school, most users tend to drop out and often lack motivation to be productive in the society. In addition, dealing with those who are addicts often places stress on the income of the society.

The community is the other backbone of the society. Most drug problems originate from problems in the society be it unemployment, a culture of drug addiction such as alcoholism, poor quality of education, poverty hence a high rate of school dropouts. It is in this regard that the society should develop measures of providing social support and integration in to the society, if the treatment should be effective in the end.  Statistics show that a majority of drug addicts have low education levels and have a long history of unemployment. In areas prone to those characteristics, in order to keep the young people occupied, the society should develop training facilities which give the people skill that would be useful in assisting them earn a living.  In addition, this education should be integrated into the learning systems such that qualifications from these institutions should assist the young people precede into other forms of training and education.

In conclusion, there are many veterans with untreated PTSD who turn to substance abuse in efforts of trying to forget their problems. Substance abuse is a major problem among our service men and women and its time the society stopped watching from a distance and did something about it. Substance abuse is also significantly a vital problem in our communities including in our learning institutions. Therefore, since our veterans are a member of communities, there is no way we afford to turn a blind eye on the matter. This issue should therefore, be addressed critically and with all the necessary means.


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