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Female Veterans and Substance Abuse

Female Veterans and Substance Abuse

Written by: stodzy | Date: November 28, 2017

Members of the Military and Armed Forces are not immune to the substance abuse epidemic, in fact, they may just be more susceptible. Too often drug and alcohol abuse in Veterans is overlooked, especially when it comes to Female Veterans.

Women in the Military face extreme pressures, stress, and trauma that can often lead to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Women are much more likely to experience sexual abuse-a reported 6% of active female women. They receive harsher treatment due to stereotypes of women being weaker than men and face the universal stressors like war, violence, separation from families, and more.

Unfortunately, the difficulties don’t end once female military personnel are no longer active and sometimes they only intensify. PTSD, injuries, homelessness, and unemployment are all common triggers for substance abuse in female veterans. There are almost 3.8 million prescribed medications to Veterans, and too often are taken more than directed.

Statistics of Substance Abuse

Because of the Zero Tolerance Policy strongly enforced, there lacks sufficient statistics on drug abuse reportings. However, surveys completed by veterans themselves are proof that there is an increasing problem with substance abuse both during and after active duty.

  • 18 percent of Female Veterans reported binge drinking while on duty, and 14 percent reported the same while on leave and post-duty.
  • 33 percent of Female Veterans were current cigarette smokers, and those numbers increased for women who faced combat.
  • 11 percent of active members reported abusing prescription medication such as narcotics and Opioids. The same statistic was reported for abusing mental disorder prescriptions such as antidepressants and sleeping pills.  18 percent of veterans reported using illicit drugs in the past month after returning home.

Consequences of Substance Abuse in Women

There are serious consequences for women who abuse substances in and after serving the Military. The obvious consequences are directly linked to health. Increase in depression, anxiety, and suicide. There are also risks of facing involuntary leave and receiving no benefits on their return home, thus adding the risk of unemployment and homelessness. When this happens, it creates a spiral of struggle that in turn can worsen addiction and substance abuse. Substance abuse also increases the effects of PTSD, and other mental health conditions associated with war and combat.

pensive female veteran

Addressing the Problem

There is little to no attention put on substance abuse issues within the military. To uphold their image and Zero Tolerance Policy, reportings and observations of substance abuse are too often pushed under the rug. When it is acknowledged, stereotypes are piled on the individual abusing and labeled negatively.

To properly address the increasing abuse of drugs and alcohol with female vets, the issues they face must be brought to light and fully acknowledged. There are support groups both within and outside of the military for women facing combat, sexual harassment, PTSD, separation anxiety, and general support groups. The more exposure this issue gets-the less taboo the subject becomes. When it’s easier to talk about, it’s easier to treat, handle, and support. Especially with the increase in prescription drugs, it can be difficult to recognize in yourself or others whether there is a substance abuse issue forming. Here are a few signs to look out for:

If you recognize the signs of substance abuse in a veteran you know, it is important to encourage him or her to seek treatment as soon as possible. Veteran substance abuse treatment programs are available that provide specialized help for military service members facing addiction issues. By providing trauma care and dual diagnosis treatment that focuses on PTSD concurrently with addiction issues, these specialized rehab programs can help veterans make a successful long-term recovery from addiction.

Recovery For Female Veterans

The first step in recovery is recognizing the problem and reaching out for help. It’s important that you or your loved one facing addiction is not ashamed. There is, importantly, an abundance of veterans facing the same problem. Realizing that one, it’s not your fault, and two, you are not alone, should give you comfort in seeking treatment.

Veterans hospitals work closely with patients who are facing addiction and have programs that help with physical and mental health issues as well. Wayside understands why how and addiction happens and is passionate about helping people find their way back. 

Wayside’s Way

If you or a loved one is tired of trying to control everything and constantly getting nowhere, let our professionals at Wayside help you break free and get your life back in the right direction. You don’t have to go through the process alone, call us today and take the first step to recovery. Our staff is compassionate and experiences, and we have what it takes to give you back the life you deserve.