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Substance abuse in the military—both among veterans and active duty military personnel—is a growing problem in the U.S. As soldiers return home from deployment, many suffer physical and mental health issues including Injury, combat stress, trauma, and verbal and sexual abuse. These issues are the direct result of their experiences overseas.
The wars of today are vastly different than the ones fought 50 years ago. The ongoing war on terror has increased the emotional toll taken on our fighting men and women.
Because of their wartime experiences, many veterans and active-duty military personnel find themselves living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders. One recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that suicide rates across all U.S. military services rose between 2005 and 2007, particularly for members of the Army and National Guard.
These mental health disorders (as well as various physical ailments) render veterans and active-duty military vulnerable to alcoholism and substance use disorder. After all, diagnoses of substance use disorders have a higher probability to occur in those who have experienced trauma or stress-related issue. And substance abuse is often a person’s attempt to self-medicate or deal with the symptoms of their mental health issues or physical injuries.
Suicide Incidence and Risk Factors in an Active Duty U.S. Military Population, a study of almost 600 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 39 percent of veterans screened positive for probable alcohol abuse. Three percent of this same population tested positive for probable illicit drug use, while 14 percent tested positive for PTSD.