How Active Duty Military Personnel Struggle With Alcoholism

It is not uncommon for some active military personnel to find themselves abusing alcohol to pacify post-combat stress. Although military personnel are discouraged from drinking as they risk deployment, some drink in groups to celebrate combat victories in social settings, or alone to mask trauma. As more and more alcohol is consumed, a dependency may develop. For many active duty military personnel this dependency worsens, becoming a full-blown substance use disorder (SUD).” According to army officials, 85 percent of the soldiers seeking outpatient substance abuse treatment did so for alcohol.

High exposure to the stress of combat creates greater risks for alcoholism and substance abuse disorders. Social pressures to bury emotions can encourage active military personnel members to cope with negative emotions, such as depression by silently turning inward and drinking. Alcohol dependence can easily shift into alcoholism, whereby the alcoholic continues drinking despite potentially severe consequences to their life and the lives of others, especially if one is self-medicating traumatic military flashbacks or emotions.

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Signs Of Alcoholism Among Active Duty Military Personnel

  • An emotional need to drink
  • Spending large amounts of money to support drinking habits
  • Mood swings/irritability
  • Liver damage
  • Alcohol-related injuries
  • Increased depression
  • Cannot control the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Blackouts
  • Strained relationships with family, friends, and fellow servicemen and women
  • Becoming violent while intoxicated
  • Shame and guilt surrounding drinking

Active Duty Military Personnel And Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks per sitting for women and 5 or more drinks per sitting for men. Binge drinking can increase one’s tolerance to alcohol. When people who drink develop a higher tolerance, the tolerance can transition into a dependence, which can then evolve into alcoholism. Up to 43.2 percent of active duty military personnel indulge in binge drinking, most of whom were 17 to 25 years old. 70 percent of active duty military binge drinkers were also heavy drinkers in general.

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Active Duty Military Personnel And Co-Occurring Disorders

Active duty military personnel experience heightened trauma while in combat, which leads to emotional distress and other mental health conditions. Being away from family members, being threatened, witnessing violence and death, experiencing emotional, physical, and sexual assault, and suffering severe injuries can create or worsen mental health disorders. In particular, Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often the result of combat, featuring a host of symptoms like depression, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

Servicemen and women suffer from rates of depression that are 5 times higher than the civilian populations. Active duty military personnel are 6 times more likely than civilians to suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder and 15 times more likely to suffer from PTSD.

The onset on these mental health conditions may drive active duty military personnel to drink alcohol. If alcoholism develops, the two conditions that now exist jointly are known as co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis.

Treatment For Active Military Personnel And Alcoholism

Treatment options are widely available to cater to the unique treatment needs of those who serve the United States. In treatment facilities, patients are examined for underlying reasons for substance use disorders. Many speak with a therapist to determine needs of patients, implementing holistic, gentle therapies to complement medically-supervised detox. Is it not uncommon for patients to have access to therapies such as:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Support groups with military-focused themes
  • Fitness
  • Biofeedback
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Art and music therapy

These therapies get to the root of alcohol use disorders by concentrating on the spiritual disease of addiction. The mind and body are both included in the healing process, so patients experience core change and are less likely to relapse.

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Ready To Make A Change?

It may seem like change is impossible, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are many resources available to active duty military personnel who are suffering from alcoholism. Contact a treatment provider today for more information about how you can start your journey towards recovery.

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If you or a loved one is ready to overcome an alcohol addiction, reach out today. Treatment providers can connect you with programs that provide the tools to help you get and stay sober.