Not even the best of us get to escape the hunting grip of alcoholism. In fact, substance use disorders are a common issue among our nation’s veterans. Military service can be a stressful and traumatic experience, which in the worst of cases ends up leading veterans to turn to alcohol and other substances to cope with the pain and trauma.
But how bad is the problem really?
Let’s take a deep dive into it and explore the connection between veterans and alcoholism, the factors that contribute to its development, and how we might be able to help.
What Percentage of Veterans Are Alcoholics?
It’s tough to pinpoint exactly the actual percentage of veterans who are alcoholics. This type of data depends on ex-service members reporting their personal statistics, and unfortunately many just don’t.
However, the number is thought to be considerably high. Some reports suggest that more than one in ten former military members have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorders—showing that nearly 10% of military personnel are heavy drinkers.
But the number increases when considering binge drinkers. The same report shows that more than 1 in 3 active-duty service members are binge drinkers—a trait mostly common among personnel with high combat exposure.
Over the past few years as deployments have intensified there has been a correlation between the increase in alcohol consumption and binge drinking among servicemen.
We also have some data on servicemen who have sought out treatment. Approximately 65% of military patients who have sought out recovery have done so due to alcoholism or alcohol abuse.
What Causes Alcoholism in Veterans?
Overall the numbers of alcohol abuse including binge drinking are considerably high among servicemen, particularly when compared to civilians.
But why is that exactly?
Well, there are numerous factors that can contribute to this. For one thing, drinking alcohol can serve as a way to connect with their fellows. With the high-stress levels, lack of recreational activities and loneliness, and boredom, many members willingly turn to alcohol to fill the void.
But probably one of the primary drivers of substance abuse among servicemen is the need to self-medicate trauma. There is a large link between veterans and alcoholism when it comes to cases of PTSD, depression, and other mental health disorders.
Here are some of the most common causes of alcoholism in veterans:
PTSD is a common occurrence among military and veterans. At some point in their life, 7 out of every 100 Veterans will suffer from PTSD.
The macho culture and image of strength portrayed in the military might keep soldiers from wanting to seek out help for their trauma as this could be looked at as weakness. Instead, they might seek to self-medicate and indulge in alcoholism tendencies.
Depression is also another cause that can lead veterans to drink. Veterans are commonly diagnosed with co-occurring disorders that include depression.
Other traumas like sexual trauma from abuse inside the military can also contribute to alcoholism in the military.
Returning home from combat can also be an overwhelming experience when trying to process all of the hardships that happened overseas. Many service members rely on alcohol as a crutch to find a way to function while back in the normal world.
Over time this crutch becomes a dependent that is very difficult to acknowledge and even harder to break.
When you combine this with service members heading out to combat and experiencing traumas, they learn to cope the only way they are shown how – by drinking to numb the pain.
Sources for Veterans and Alcoholism
Now that you know more about veterans and alcoholism you might be wondering how to get help for yourself or a veteran you care for.
There are many programs available to help veterans who have put their life and mental health on the line to serve our country.
One of the best ways to get help is by attending rehab for veterans.
Elysium Healthcare is a leading provider of alcohol recovery services for service men and women.
Contact us today and find out how you can benefit from this program.