Contributed by Dr. SooMi Lee-Samuel, MD, MA.
The men and women who serve in the United States military are among the most selfless and brave individuals in our society. Even with these exceptional qualities, this does not make military personnel exempt from the struggle that comes with substance abuse and addiction.
The reality is that substance abuse results from the combination of many complex factors that are often out of a person’s control, such as their genetic makeup and neurobiology. Other contributing components include environmental circumstance, such as exposure to drugs at an early age, the experience of traumatic or stressful situations, and more.
Military Members and Substance Abuse: The Perfect Storm for Substance Abuse
The conditions endured by military personnel in our country today may be particularly triggering for an individual who is already biologically predisposed to developing addictive behaviors. Among the stressors that servicemen and women in uniform endure include:
- Separation from family members and loved ones
- Exposure to war, trauma and death
- Intense physical, emotional and psychological demands
These, in combination with the unique culture of the military, may create the perfect storm for U.S. servicemembers with a predisposition to substance abuse and addiction.
Common Substances Abused Among Military Members
Substance abuse among military members can involve:
- Illicit drugs and substances
- Prescription medications
- Cigarette use
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the most common substances abused among servicemembers include prescription medications, alcohol and cigarettes, with incidences of abuse being higher among military servicemen and women when compared to civilians .
Pain-relieving prescriptions in particular tend to be more highly abused among military servicemembers, and this likely coincides with an increase in prescription medications given for physical complications resulting from the nature of this job. Alcohol and cigarette use is also considerably higher among military members, especially among those who have been directly involved with combat experience.
Substance Abuse Resources Available For Military Members
For any military member who might be dealing with substance abuse, this issue can quickly become problematic, interfering with health, work, personal life, relationships, finances and more.
Many military members who might be struggling with substance abuse may postpone seeking professional help due to:
- The stigmas associated with addiction,
- Avoidance of potential disciplinary actions, or even
- Fear of losing their job.
While several branches of the military have actively taken steps towards the prevention, identification and treatment of substance abuse among soldiers, connecting to appropriate resources while in the military can feel difficult.
Every military branch has available resources for connecting servicemembers with appropriate treatment interventions for substance abuse as needed. Typically, a military health care professional can provide a referral for an assessment when substance abuse is suspected.
A professional assessment can help determine the appropriate level of care and treatment that might be needed for a servicemember, and it can evaluate the severity of one’s substance abuse disorder. Recommendations for treatment can then be provided, particularly if treatment can be adequately administered in military facilities.
Examples Of Military Substance Abuse Programs
Each service branch of the military offers counseling services in addition to substance abuse prevention and treatment programs. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention
- Army Substance Abuse Program
- Marine Corps Substance Abuse Program
- Air Force Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment (ADAPT) Program
Military members often endure the most excruciating circumstances in the name of freedom, and many may suffer in silence when battling substance abuse disorder. Connecting to the treatment and prevention programs offered through each respective military branch can help promote the servicemember’s journey towards healing, recovery and ultimate freedom.
About the Author: Dr. SooMi Lee-Samuel, MD, MA, is the medical director of Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center in Lemont, Illinois. Timberline Knolls is a major treatment provider in the area for the following conditions:
- Drug and Alcohol Addiction
- Mood and Anxiety Disorders
- Trauma and PTSD
- Eating Disorders
: National Institute on Drug Abuse, “DrugFacts: Substance Abuse in the Military”, Accessed 30 May 2016: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/substance-abuse-in-military
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 19, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com