Finding Addiction Treatment While Transitioning Out of the Military

addiction in the military

Addiction recovery is necessary when one is addicted to a drug, alcohol, or multiple drugs. It doesn’t matter if it is an illicit drug, a prescribed medication, how one obtains it or in what form one uses it in, addiction is a serious problem today and many are plagued by the effects of the substance when using it.

We are seeing a pattern with our military personnel, where young veterans barely 30 arrive home over-medicated on a concoction of prescription psychotroptic (like Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) and painkiller (opioids such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, etc) drugs, prescribed by military doctors.

It is a hard truth that over-medication is an epidemic among our armed forces. Some of our veterans take upwards of 20 to 40 pills a day, and half of them are psychotropic medications. The results can be unpredictable in that one doesn’t know what effects these drugs have on a person.

According to a 2010 report by the Military Times in the time between the war’s peak (2001-2009) antipsychotic drugs jumped 200%. AstraZeneca sold $340 million worth of the psychotic medication Seroquel to the Armed forces, primarily as a sleep aid. There were 54,581 prescriptions written for active duty service members in 2011 alone (later the company was successfully sued for “off-label” use and kickbacks being paid to doctors in order to promote its use). This is just one example of one prescription medication being overly (and wrongly) used in the military.

Another report, this time provided by the Center for Public Integrity, shared that from 2005-2011 about 49,000 veterans killed themselves, which is more than double the rate of the civilian population. When so many medications have warnings on the labels for suicidal thoughts, it is no surprise, only unfortunate and unnecessary, that so many veterans are committing suicide.

By early 2013 the official website of the U.S. Department of Defense announced the incredible statistic of military suicides which occurred in 2012, averaging one per day, far exceeding those killed in battle. Only a month later the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shared a staggering statistic of veteran suicides all the way up to 22 a day, which is 8,000 a year. The suicide rates became so extreme that the U.S. Secretary of Defense termed suicide in the military an “epidemic”.

One wonders how many of the military personnel have been prescribed these psychotropics and opioid medications without any real reasons, when the facts reveal that 85% of military suicides have not even seen combat, and 52% were never even deployed!

The Department of Defense’s fiscal spending from 2002 was at $3 billion, by 2011 it increased to $6.8 billion; with the current rise of prescription medications dispensed in the army, it is not as much as a surprising shift in expense when we know that the military has spent at least $2.7 billion on antidepressants and $1.6 billion on narcotic painkillers over the last decade, and from the time of 2001-2009 alone the Department of Defense’s orders for anxiety medications and sedatives like Valium increased 170%. By 2009 17% of active duty service members were on antidepressants (even more had been prescribed a medication) and 1 out of 6 active military members was on some form of a psychiatric drug. Out of 160 active duty suicides, one-third of them had prescription drug medication involved.

It is also surprising to note that alcohol use is in fact higher among the men and women in military service than it is among civilians. In 2008 almost half of the active duty service members reported binge drinking in 2008, and 20% of military personnel binge drank weekly in a month.

Even though illicit drug use is lower among service members, a report by the Institute of Medicine stated that 11% of service members in 2008 admitted they were abusing prescription pills; this was up from 2% in 2002 and 4% in 2005. The easy and widespread access to prescriptions allow for greater chance of addiction, an example of this is the quadrupling of pain reliever prescriptions alone from 2001-2009, written by military physicians at almost 3.8 million. 

There was a 682% increase of prescriptions in the military from 2005-2008, from which there are so many terrible stories of lives lost from addiction to medications.

It is painful to realize that our service men and women survived the war but don’t have much of a chance to survive the drug cocktails which are prescribed to them for PTSD or other manifestations.

What Is Rehab?

Rehab is a treatment center which rehabilitates a person from drug use or addiction, the purpose of a rehab is to allow an individual to become sober and live a drug- or alcohol-free life. Illicit, painkillers, psychotropic – these are all drugs that millions and millions of people are addicted to or are trying to come off of.

When our service men and women are being prescribed so many drugs while in the military, the least we can do for them when they come home is to help them to come off these addictive and dangerous drugs.

This needs to be done in a safe manner, gradually, with a health regimen in place; treatment centers are meant to assist our loved ones so that they are no longer dependent upon drugs.

Drugs should not be a problem our veterans have to face, they should be presented with the time and love of family and friends who missed them while they were away on duty serving and protecting our country.

When transitioning out of the army, we want to hear fewer prescription numbers, fewer addiction rates, and lower suicides, and to do this we need to increase drug addiction recovery rates for our military and limit or eradicate the exposure of our service men and women to prescription drugs.

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