April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This is an important time for veterans and their families to reflect on how much alcohol they are consuming. Another important factor in alcohol usage is why it’s being consumed. If you or the veteran who is close to you drink in order to cope with emotional or physical pain, there are better, safer, and easier solutions. Common difficulties for veterans returning to civilian life include job loss, financial problems and relationship issues. These are all high-stress factors that contribute to the over 13 percent of veterans who feel pushed towards drugs and alcohol as a way to deal.
A Health Behavior Survey by the Department of Defense shows that the use of illegal drugs has gone down in veterans, but prescription drug abuse and heavy alcohol consumption has increased. At higher risk of alcoholism are service members who have been deployed multiple times, or have been exposed to severe combat situations. Often occurring simultaneously to the stress of returning home are the struggles that accompany Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and pain from a medical procedure.
Alcohol And PTSD
PTSD occurs when an individual is subjected to an event of extreme danger, often because there is a threat to one’s life. PTSD causes extreme, debilitating anxiety in those who suffer from it, which can persist for years if untreated. Many men and women diagnosed with PTSD use alcohol as a form of self-medication to dull the panic, worry, and detachment from their sense of self. This actually hinders the rate of recovery and dulls the neurotransmitters responsible for helping us to cope with, rationalize, and overcome our fears.
Injuries And Physical Pain
Veterans also abuse prescription medication and alcohol to deal with physical pain. While alcohol does numb down intense flare-ups, pain is an important message that our brains need to retain in order for us to get better. We can do more damage to an already painful injury if intoxicated and unaware of our discomfort or agitation.
Traumatic brain injuries also seem to be relieved by alcohol use on a surface level, but it causes more damage than the short-term illusion of pain-relief that alcohol provides. Our brains are able to heal themselves if we are exposed to the right chemical combinations, cognitive therapy, and emotional safety. Alcohol hinders the brain’s ability to heal itself and can prolong the injury’s time of healing. Drinking while coping with traumatic brain injuries is actually incredibly dangerous because it can make the injury worse, thus increasing brain damage and already-present cognitive struggles.
Seeking Treatment For Alcohol Abuse
The US Army states that only 40 percent of veterans diagnosed with mental health issues seek professional help. This leads to a higher risk of alcohol and other substance abuse. It may feel initially easier to hide beneath the numbness that drinking seems provide temporarily, but the longer that veterans ignore the underlying emotional or mental issues of their substance abuse disorder, the longer it will take for them to feel like they’re welcomed back into their own life and skin again.
We can erase the stigma of seeking help for mental health disorders and emotional fragility, and it all starts with your own response to mental health issues that you or a family member struggles with. No one should have to face the terror of internal uncertainty alone. Let’s take this month to reassess how we are coping with the stresses of our daily lives, and encourage ourselves and others to seek help for substance abuse if it becomes apparent that there is a problem.
Help Veterans With A Car Donation
One way that you can support the programs that help veterans with issues such as PTSD, pain management, traumatic brain injury recovery, and other underlying problems of alcohol abuse is to donate your car to Vehicles for Veterans. We take care of all towing costs and maintenance fees, and you receive a great tax deduction for your charitable effort. Give back to the women and men who have fought for our country overseas and are now fighting internal battles at home. You can assist veterans’ abilities to seek help when you donate your car by calling us at 1-855-811-4838 or fill out an online car donation form. Donate your car, and help us lift the silence surrounding alcohol abuse in our communities of brave and recovering veterans.