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  • Alcohol Use Disorder In Veterans | Risk Factors, Effects, & Treatment

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    Veteran Heavy Drinking-Alcohol Use Disorder In Veterans | Risk Factors, Effects, & Treatment

    Veterans who suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD) may have experienced traumatic events during their time as an active-duty military service member. 

    Trauma may cause self-medication in which a person turns to drug or alcohol abuse to ease the painful memories associated with military life.

    Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a significant problem among the military veteran population when they are re-introduced to civilian life. In fact, army vets who experienced combat exposure have a higher rate of participating in heavy drinking than the general population.

    Risk Factors For Alcohol Use Disorder In Veterans

    Substance abuse in veterans primarily manifests as alcohol misuse, which can lead to alcohol addiction as stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). There are also several risk factors associated with AUD in veterans.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    PTSD is a mental health disorder which can be caused by various factors such as witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. In war, there are added stressors and an increased risk of witnessing trauma.

    Some of the symptoms of PTSD may include:

    • depression
    • being easily startled
    • irritability
    • sleep problems
    • difficulty concentrating
    • flashbacks
    • feeling “on edge”

    Although experiencing trauma in the military can lead to PTSD, so can childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or continued bullying. Instead of receiving proper care, some may turn to binge drinking or heavy alcohol consumption which may lead to a person developing AUD.

    Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

    One of the risk factors for vets developing AUD is military sexual trauma (MST). MST refers to sexual assault, harassment, and battery that a person experienced during their time serving in the military.

    Men and women can both suffer from this type of mental health condition. Those with MST may experience depression, similar to PTSD, and develop alcohol problems as well.

    Past Trauma

    Anyone who suffers a past trauma may turn to alcohol misuse as a coping mechanism. There is a higher risk of developing AUD if a person experiences a traumatic event such as sexual or childhood abuse.

    Effects Of Alcohol Use Disorder

    Side effects associated with AUD may include:

    • intense cravings for alcohol
    • constantly thinking about your next drink
    • being unable to stop drinking
    • weakened immune system
    • experiencing withdrawal symptoms
    • becoming anti-social or not participating in familial or financial obligations
    • long-term health problems such as heart disease, liver disease, or stroke
    • alcohol intoxication
    • mental health problems

    Treatment For Veterans With Alcohol Use Disorder

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can assist military personnel and veterans in finding treatment services. Additionally, the VA may provide insurance options to help cover the cost of treatment.

    AUDs are more common in male veterans than female veterans. Treatment for AUD may be extensive, requiring various treatment options.

    Inpatient & Outpatient Treatment Centers

    There are countless addiction treatment programs for you and your loved ones to consider. Drug and alcohol rehabs focus on your well-being to help prevent further drug abuse. You can participate in these programs as an inpatient or outpatient.

    Medical Detoxification

    Stopping alcohol use abruptly or “cold turkey” can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. One of the first forms of AUD treatment may consist of medical detox.

    During this process, healthcare professionals monitor you while you detox slowly and safely. Toxins and chemicals in your body will be purged, allowing you to begin fresh at the beginning stages of your addiction treatment.

    Therapy & Mental Health Care

    Individual, group, and family therapy can be helpful for veterans. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another popular form of behavioral therapy for both addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions.

    Those suffering from a co-occurring disorder such as a SUD or a mental health disorder may require extensive treatment options which you can find with inpatient treatment.

    Medication-Assisted Treatment

    Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, is an effective treatment option for AUD. This treatment combines medication, including naltrexone or disulfiram, with therapy to address alcohol dependence and improve the chances of long-term recovery.

    If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or mental health issues, consider Ark Behavioral Health. We offer a wide range of treatment options for you and your loved ones. Contact us today to learn more

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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