Everyone can apply for the military but not everyone makes it all the way through. You are put to the ultimate test physically as well as mentally and are broken from the inside out. That’s what happened to David Goggins, who is now considered one of the toughest men alive. He was part of the Navy Seals and has now known as one of the top ultra-endurance marathon runners, after competing in the Bad Water-135 Ultra Marathon where he said he was put to the ultimate test and he kept on pushing himself.
Of course, you may have heard of him, but no one is telling you to be like him. But what could be worse, and is worse, is substance abuse after your time in the military.The truth is that even after rigorous training and discipline, there are some ex-military personnel that step out of the military and have little idea of how to get back into civilian life. The mental and physical stresses of life in deployment and PTSD from war-time events is too much to bear.
According to a survey report by the US Department of Defense where the health-related behaviors of Active duty Military personnel were surveyed, there was just below a 2.5% prevalence of illicit drug users among Active duty military personnel. This is compared to 12% of civilians is a pretty decent figure. But what about the times when someone who has gone through military service and is coming into civilian life?
What You’re About When You’re in the Military Vs. After
When you’re a part of the military, the thought of leaving may come to your mind when you’re re-enlisting. That’s when planning can come in incredibly handy. It will help you decide when you have to switch to civilian life.
When you’re serving in the military, you have other things on your mind. The things that many other people have to worry about are not on your mind, such as subsidized education, healthcare, housing facilities, growth and travel. You’re more worried about proving yourself in the field.
When you have been in the military, and are employed, you will be able to get the benefits package that civilians cannot. You will be eligible for these benefits as a veteran. But many people are not even aware of this and get involved in substance abuse problems that are a menace to the rest of the society. They are not immune to these problems.
Why Drug Abuse Problems go Unnoticed in Military?
Illicit drug use is lower in military personnel, but tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs abuse is quite high in comparison. People in the military take too much stress during the war time and are faced with PTSD as well. The Zero Tolerance policy for drugs makes it difficult for people to take the illicit drugs as they will be tested frequently.
The military culture and the stigma are strong reasons why identifying and treating drug abuse problems is very much a big issue for military personnel to deal with. There is a lack of confidentiality as well that makes things difficult for military personnel and they don’t seek help when they really need to.
There is a great risk for people who are in heavy duty combat environments and were deployed at different places during their regimes, to develop drug use and abuse problems. Due to the things they are exposed to, they are more likely to start drinking, start using chewing tobacco or illicit drugs or relapse on smoking if they used to smoke before this.
As a veteran however, when you are relieved from your duties, life takes a complete turn. All the things from your life before the army come fleeting back and that makes things even more difficult to cope with. Therefore, many veterans are prone to using illicit and prescription drugs, resorting to alcohol and smoking as well.
Drug Use as a Veteran
This is a great concern for people who served in the US Military in some capacity. Veterans have endured a number of physical and mental problems while serving in the military. While their lifestyle in the military would have kept them disciplined and out of harm’s way when it comes to illicit drug use, many tend to fall back on illicit and prescription drugs to cope with the stresses of civilian life.
Many veterans have suffered from disabilities that have left them crippled and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. Substance abuse seems like a very plausible coping mechanism, which it really is not. The trauma that veterans and their families have gone through as a whole is a lot. The challenging new environment of veterans drives them to using alcohol and drugs and that problem magnifies. This is why family members of veterans and those returning veterans are more likely to get the help veterans need than the veterans themselves.
Families of veterans do what they can to help the veterans adjust to civilian lives. As a first step, educational resources and materials are necessary for the veterans’ full recovery from substance abuse.
Why Is It Common?
The reason that drug use and abuse is common among veterans is that they have already seen such traumatic scenes in their time in the military that they have had physical and mental calluses. Substance abuse may be a way that they are medicating themselves to get over some of those episodes. It’s a coping mechanism for veterans dealing with mental disorders and debilitating physical injuries.
The Need to Plan and Avoid Problems
Just like any job, you need to plan your exit strategy in advance when you first decide to leave the military in order to make things easier in the long run. The idea of civilian life for a veteran can be overwhelming and if you are deciding to leave in a couple of years, it can allow you to have the time to get used to the idea of civilian life.
There are active duty training and education programs to help you adjust to the idea of a civilian life. There is also a need to have money in your account when you go out into civilian after military life. This is so that you can reap the full advantages of programs such as the GI Bill and others when you are out of the military, as a veteran. After all, it wouldn’t hurt to be rich.
The Shift to Civilian Life
Just as you are prepared in the military with ranger school, hell week and other programs, you also need to detune from the rigors of military life when you are trying to get back into civilian life. You can still use the skills you have developed in your time at the military in your civilian job as a veteran.
For many veterans, it can be incredibly difficult and overwhelming. They are not given choices but facilities. Naturally, when they are given freedom of choices and little benefits and facilities, it becomes really difficult for them to focus and maintain the discipline that they were able to while in the military.
And to cope with looming problems like depression, anxiety, disabilities and more, they resort to illicit and prescription medication use, along with tobacco and alcohol dependency.
This really makes life miserable for them as it leads them down a dark and dangerous path, with suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides being the outcome. In fact, in the 2005-2007 period, the suicide rates for those in the regular army and National guard were found to have risen.
Mental health diagnoses, health visits, separations, divorce, sleep prescriptions and more of such problems were linked to the suicide rate increases. Veterans deal with these problems after serving their time in the military and that makes things difficult for them to get back into a normal civilian routine.
This is not at all tolerable as it is the right of every human being to live and have a purpose. That purpose is seemingly lost when these individuals return from military, especially if they were in combat positions.
Luckily there is help if you seek it out.
There’s Help If You Reach Out
There are programs such as the Veterans Alcohol and Drug Dependence Rehabilitation Program that help veterans cope more healthily and safely with the issues like stress, PTSD, depression, Anxiety and more that they cope with using drugs.
There are a number of therapies and support services for veterans that have substance abuse disorders. But it is up to them and their families to seek help. Wouldn’t you help a family member that you found crawled up into a fetal position on the bathroom floor, or in the tub with a beer bottle in their hand?
It is up to the relatives and families of veterans to help them through this phase of life, because it is just that and will pass with time and the right kind of help. Private facilities are also available to help veterans pass the waiting times at VA locations and the stigma linked to substance abuse.
It’s time to take charge of Civilian life and make a much-needed change in mindset.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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