Alcohol Awareness and the Veteran Population

April 18, 2017

Due to the extreme stressors associated with military service, a number of active duty, reserve members, and retirees of the armed forces face an increased possibility of substance abuse.  These men and women may have also experienced homelessness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), challenges with depression, and traumatic brain injuries, which can all be potential triggers associated with the cycle of addiction.  The pattern of substance use can increase the potential for self-harm or suicidal behaviors; a saddening statistic is that nearly 22 veterans complete suicide each day.

For some, the behavioral health symptoms are overwhelming and can lead to a pattern of “self-medicating” through overuse of alcohol.  Alcohol depresses the nervous system, resulting in feeling as if one’s emotional pain has been temporarily “numbed.”  However, once the effect of alcohol subsides, the pain returns and may contribute to a dangerous pattern of alcohol use.  

According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol use is higher among men and women in military service than civilians.  According to their report, almost 47% reported binge drinking in 2008.  Binging on alcohol involves drinking huge volumes of alcohol in a short period of time.  The emotional symptoms the veteran was attempting to block re-emerge with a greater intensity.  In turn, the person drinks more in the hope of alleviating the troubling thoughts or feelings.

Signs which indicate serious and dangerous use of alcohol include increased aggression, moodiness and oppositional behaviors towards others. The individual may also resort to hiding his/her alcohol, drinking in private, losing the desire to engage in and complete daily tasks, and abandoning hobbies and personal interests.  Additionally, veterans who overindulge in alcohol may experience an inability to acquire and maintain employment. Relationships can be destroyed, leading to a pattern of social isolation.  

But there is help.  Using the Veteran’s Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) can be a good place for Veterans to initiate services and receive crisis counseling.  Additional support groups, including various 12-Step Groups can be utilized as ongoing assistance to maintain personal sobriety.  Reaching out to tell someone about challenges with alcohol or interpersonal relationships is the first step to achieving wellness and living a life of hope.

Do you know of a man or woman with a history of military service who is challenged with alcohol use or other emotional difficulties?  Take the first step and reach out to him or her.  Let your friends and loved ones know that help is available.  New Vitae Wellness and Recovery is proud to offer grant funding for Veterans that result in low-cost or free services.  We are honored to help men and women heal from the emotional stressors that can be associated with military service.

Barry Bowman, MAPC, CADC, CCPG
Veteran Services Coordinator
New Vitae Wellness and Recovery


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