Prescription Drug Addiction Is a Serious Problem Among Veterans
Substance abuse and addiction are widespread problems in the United States, affecting people at every economic level and every sociological group. Prescription drug abuse is a particular type of addiction that may involve painful medical conditions or the effects of profound stress on the individual.
Many Different Types of Prescription Drugs Can Be Addictive
When you hear the phrase “prescription drug abuse,” you may automatically think of pain relievers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. However, other types of drugs that are often prescribed on an ongoing basis to manage specific conditions can also lead to dependence and addiction. These drugs include medications used to treat anxiety, such as Valium and Xanax, and medications used to treat sleep problems, such as Ambien. Stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall can also be abused and lead to dependence. Many people are unaware of the addictive qualities of these medications. They may develop a growing dependency on the drugs without recognizing the signs and symptoms of a problem.
Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Dependence
The signs of abuse of common medications can vary, depending on the drug category. Individuals may become addicted, spending more and more time seeking and taking the drug. They may exhibit intense mood swings or aggression. Sleep patterns may be disrupted, and they may sleep much more or less than usual. The individual begins to have difficulty maintaining everyday life and schedules. They may withdraw from family and social contacts to spend more time getting high. Addiction causes them to use more and more of the drug to get the required effect. Dependence on drugs also affects decision-making, and the individual may find themselves involved in stealing, forging checks, getting into fights, or selling drugs to continue their habit.
Fear of the Physical Discomfort From Withdrawal Keeps Many Vets Addicted
People trying to manage a prescription drug use disorder often try to quit independently, but find the rigors of withdrawal symptoms too challenging to manage. They may continue using drugs to prevent the severe physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal, which include:
- Muscle pain
- Fever with sweating
- Overactive reflexes
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
Treatment Programs Can Help With the Discomfort of Withdrawal
The detox portion of substance abuse treatment is designed to help the client during withdrawal, using medications to relieve symptoms and psychological support to keep them on track. This part of treatment removes the drug from the client’s body, so they can fully participate in recommended therapies.
Why Are Common Prescription Drugs So Easily Abused?
Prescription drugs are generally abused because of the effects they produce. They may cause feelings of euphoria and comfort. Some people may experiment with the mental and psychological effects of the drug. Some people use them to reduce anxiety or feelings of hyperalertness. In many cases, physicians help to facilitate the addiction, sometimes without realizing it. Some physicians may prescribe these drugs liberally when they have run out of treatment options and rely on prescription drugs that may offer some relief for their patients. Some physicians are unaware of the severe risk of addiction to some medicines. Often, people will continue their habit to avoid the physically uncomfortable effects of withdrawal. Staying addicted seems simply less painful than going through the withdrawal process.
Veterans Are at Special Risk for Drug Abuse and Addiction
Ex-military are often particularly vulnerable to prescription drug use disorder due to their service. They have been wounded in combat and require ongoing medical care to resolve their injuries and allow them to function normally. They may experience pain due to their wounds or physical discomfort associated with rehabilitation methods.
PTSD After Combat Can Also Increase Risk for Prescription Drug Dependence
Veterans may also have to deal with posttraumatic stress syndrome, a psychological conditions of heightened alertness, anxiety, depression, difficulty with relationships, mood disorders, aggression, sleep disruption and increased risk of substance abuse problems to manage these symptoms. Because of these problems, veterans of our military services often struggle with the effects of addiction in their daily lives. Getting these individuals into effective substance abuse treatment can help to manage underlying conditions, turn lives around and restore normal function as productive members of society.
Effects of Prescription Drug Abuse on the Lives of Veterans
Getting adjusted to civilian life again can be challenging for veterans. They must often interact with people who have no experience of military life, combat threats, or cohesive group actions. Prescription drug dependence adds another layer of difficulty to readjusting to mainstream life. Eventually, substance use takes over the entirety of an individual’s life. The need to acquire the drug becomes overwhelming. It can lead to problems with the law and the courts. It can disrupt personal relationships and leave the person feeling isolated. These effects only lead to a spiraling need to continue using the drug. Treatment offers a way out with specialized care that focuses on the unique problems of substance dependency.
Treatment Is Available to Help Veterans With Prescription Drug Dependence
Substance abuse treatment has gone through many changes in recent years. Addiction experts have found that programs addressing the needs specific demographics face helps to increase the odds of success in recovery. Treatments tailored for men, women, teens, and first responders allow therapies to tackle particular issues these groups face. Programs specially designed to fit the needs of veterans that address their unique life experiences can help improve outcomes and provide additional tools for success in recovery.
Veteran Issues Tackled in Tailored Substance Abuse Treatment Programs
A veteran-centered treatment program offers a particular focus on problems that vets face. They will tackle concurrent addiction to nicotine and alcohol that often occurs along with prescription drug addiction. It may offer increased focus on relapse prevention and managing cravings with medication. The program will also help the vet manage any mental health conditions that play a part in the addiction. Family therapy can help restore family members’ trust and provide a safe space to address problems. Directing the individual to self-help groups can provide support for continued sobriety. Coordinating physical medical care, mental health care, and substance abuse therapies helps veterans to move away from prescription drug dependency and into more effective options for their care.
In-Patient Substance Abuse Treatment Options for Veterans
Seeking out treatment can seem like a monumental step for veterans dealing with prescription drug use disorder. They may have concerns about leaving employment or family responsibilities to go into an extended rehab program. These programs can be highly effective for overcoming abuse, but they are not the only available programs. Shorter-term residential programs can provide a good option for these individuals.
Effective Outpatient Treatment Is Available
Outpatient rehab is another potential treatment option. Outpatient rehab combines many standard therapies and techniques without completely separating them from everyday activities. Outpatient programs can be intensive or less concentrated, depending on the needs of the individual. Combined inpatient treatment with outpatient follow-up is also available to provide a full range of treatment for clients who need continued care.
Treatment Works, If You Work It
Substance abuse treatment has successfully turned around the lives of thousands of individuals who have struggled with prescription drug use. These programs include a variety of therapies and techniques that can be tailored to the client’s needs. The process starts with a thorough evaluation of both physical and mental health and the extent of the dependency. Any health issues will be addressed, and any mental health issues will be diagnosed and treated. Programs can include individual psychological therapy, group therapy, behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, and setting up supports for future sobriety.
Resolve to Overcome Substance Abuse for a Better Future
The first step on the road to your return to normalcy is to take action to get help. The individual’s motivation is critical in providing the momentum for change and recovery. A commitment to participating in the therapies involved in substance treatment helps to ensure a successful outcome. Substance abuse professionals will be available to you throughout the treatment process. Understanding the nature of addiction and the reasons behind substance abuse allows individuals to regain control over their lives and work toward a healthier, more productive future. Learning the tools and techniques to prevent relapse help clients maintain sobriety over the long term.
Contact a Substance Abuse Treatment Center to Begin Your Path to Recovery
Substance use disorder is a medical problem that can be remedied with proper treatment. Treatment counselors can help find the right programs and therapies to help each client’s unique needs. If you or a loved one are struggling with dependence on prescription drugs, contact a treatment center today to begin the journey that will bring you back into mainstream society, where you can effectively pursue your goals and dreams. At VeteransRehab.org, we offer free resources about addiction treatment and mental health for veterans.