Many veterans become addicted to drugs and alcohol or struggle with co-occurring disorders. Addictions can develop while serving in the military or when they retire and are discharged. Numerous causative factors contribute to these problems.
The opioid epidemic, for example, has heavily impacted veterans, increasing overdose rates. While on Memorial Day, millions of American families honor the memory of the men and women who lost their lives serving the U.S. military, we must never lose sight of all the veterans who made it home but need our help.
In New Hampshire are over 100,000 veterans, most of whom are wartime vets. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 3.9 million veterans have a substance use disorder or mental illness.
Moreover, substance use disorders significantly increase suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older. Unfortunately, suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common among veterans ages 18 to 49.
“Too many veterans fall through the crack primarily because of accessible treatment,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org. “While early intervention saves lives, it’s important for families to know what to do and where to seek help.”
Years of military service can have lifeline implications for veterans. Countless vets struggle to adjust to civilian life. They may experience financial hardships and difficulty finding employment and accessing benefits.
Many other veterans experience mental and emotional health concerns. This can be compounded with physical injury or chronic pain. Untreated trauma, for example, impacts every aspect of life and significantly increases drug and alcohol misuse.
Additionally, many veterans experience barriers when accessing treatment. This could be the cost of treatment or gaps in insurance. Stigma regarding addiction and mental health is still prominent. Veterans living in rural areas generally have limited access to treatment.
Outside of the usual resources provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA facility locator, other options to consider include:
· The Department of Military Affairs and Veterans Services in New Hampshire provides support for veterans and their families;
· The New Hampshire Veterans Home provides long-term care services for elderly veterans;
· Northeast Passage provides recreation therapy services for veterans and military personnel;
· Helpful hotlines include the Veterans Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443;
· SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans can find specific addiction treatment resources.
Families also play a critical role in supporting their loved ones. It’s ok to express concern about their drug or alcohol use. Speak to them openly and honestly about what is happening. Help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion. Families and communities that come together to help veterans have a significant impact.
Veronica Raussin is a Community Outreach Coordinator for Addicted.org, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol & drug use.
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