Military, Veterans, and Families: Addictions and Treatment

It is no secret that many active military & veteran families
are struggling with a variety of behavioral problems
related to the longest conflict in the history of the
United States.

Frequent news reports cite, suicide, substance abuse,
domestic violence, & homelessness as a result. Certainly
combat trauma, multiple deployments, PTSD,
moral injury, & joblessness play into the service person
turning to substances in order to cope. Probably just
as challenging, family members have to cope with the
service persons issues and it can be even more difficult
for them.

According to the recent September 2014 Los Angeles
County Survey of Veterans at USC Center for Innovation
& Research, veterans have many challenges. Some of
the statistic s are the following: veterans are 2.5 times
more likely to have significant alcohol use, 1/3 have
consider suicide or had a plan to commit to suicide at
one time, 40% did not receive behavioral health care,
27% are more like to drive while after drinking, 45%
had PTSD, 22% were like to carry a weapon outside of
work, 40% of pre & post 9/11 vets were homeless, 26%
reported looking to start a fight, 40% reported engaging
in high risk sexual behavioral, 2/3 of women veterans
reported sexual harassment & assault while in the
military, and 1/3 reported serious financial problems.
So what might be causing some of these issues?

First of all, there in no ‘boot camp back to civilian life.”
Soldiers spend weeks in boot camp preparing for war
and when they leave they get a few hours of transition
assistance program to come home. With multiple deployments
of back and forth between worlds, it’s hard
for any human to adapt. So with so many in the Guard
& Reserve, the transitions are especially difficult. The
warrior culture ethos doesn’t fit the demands of civilian
life. Warrior behavior isn’t tolerated, even in L.A.

The ancient Greeks, the Native Americans, and other
cultures knew this and had longer transition rites of
passage to help warriors adapt to being citizens again.
Second, with Post Traumatic Stress being so high
among the veterans the desire to medicate through alcohol,
sex, or violence becomes even more compelling
as an option. This is especially true if one doesn’t have
a job to go to.8 out of 10 vets of the survey reported
not having a job to go to when they got out. As we all
know, the economy hasn’t bounced back fully especially
in the area of employment. It especially difficult for
the veteran in managing the social network to get the
necessary work.

And finally, provider services need to become more responsive
to the veterans and their family needs. There
has been much controversy regarding the VA and their
handling of veteran’s issues. Change is happening but
private industry might even more responsive to helping
the veteran. Needs included better job placement,
veteran sober living, military trauma treatment centers
both outpatient & inpatient, Veteran 12 steps groups,
and supportive services for family members. During
the workshop in February these issues will be explored
with the hope of providing better services for veterans
and their families.