Why Veterans Turn to Opioids and How to Help Them in Recovery


Opioids are a growing problem across the United States. In terms of both addiction and overdoses, the reality is opioids are an epidemic. Veterans are not alone in their trials with opioids to cope with chronic pain, PTSD, or myriad other challenges they face. Addiction rates are on the rise across the United States, catching veterans in the middle of the most challenging epidemic seen in many decades. Military personnel battle many fronts, both personal and professional, in the fight against addiction. Find out more about why it occurs and how to support a loved one in recovery. 

Coming Home

Returning veterans face many challenges. In the field, they may have held many different positions. Even if they were not frontline combat positions, they may have seen and heard things that continue to put them at risk for mental health challenges when they return home. Multiple deployments, if they are deployed, often challenge and tax their minds, bodies, and spirits. Separation from family and loved ones can keep them from feeling connected to their community. The return after being away is not easy, the adjustment period being long and arduous. It is not an easy thing to deal with the stress and strain of combat missions, then wind their way back into civilian life. Security for veterans is not always there because the basic safety nets have failed some when it comes to financial support in the way of benefits or employment opportunities. If they face health challenges, this becomes an even more cumbersome process. 

Opioid Use

Serving inside the military is taxing for both the veteran and their family members. The stress comes from all angles including work, personal life, and mental health challenges they encounter along the way. Previous trauma can also play a role in this, as well. Enlisted, active duty members, are more often introduced to opioid use through prescription drugs. With servicemen and women prescribed pain relievers for their injuries, opioid use continues to escalate. Opioids are addictive, even with a prescription. Although opioids may temporarily lessen emotional trauma veterans face, many use the drugs to self-medicate a variety of mental health conditions. 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is one of the biggest challenges facing veterans when it comes to mental health. Due to combat injury or what they see on the field, they may come back quite different than when they left. The veteran may have seen and experienced things they cannot process, so the brain begins to deal with it in other ways. Behaviors change, their sleeping patterns are disrupted, and they have trouble coping with daily life. Some of the symptoms of PTSD may also include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Aggression
  • Memory issues
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Substance use disorder
  • Anxiety, stress, or other similar issues

PTSD is becoming more common among those who serve in the military because they are dealing with multiple deployments in high-risk situations. Retired service members may be dealing with it and not telling anyone. They may fear stigma or dishonorable discharge, which keeps them silent. 

Seeking Help

The best way to get help is for a veteran to feel empowered. Opioids are just a band-aid for a larger challenge they face. It covers up the pain for a while but creates other issues. Doctors overprescribe the opioids, but don’t realize the harmful effects. They may prescribe it and the veteran becomes addicted because of how powerful the drugs are for that person. Even if symptoms seem to go away for a time, they will not stay away. Resolving the issues with treatment, therapy, and support that is focused on veteran’s health and wellness is the best course of action. Even with this in mind, there is no guarantee a veteran will never have problems with addiction. They are likely to relapse if they do not have proper care for mental health issues and their addiction. There are many triggers in the environment and family which can make it hard for them to stay clean and sober. The goal is to find supportive care and treatment that will keep them from struggling in the future.

Treatment Programs

A solid treatment program for veterans is going to focus on taking some healthy first steps. This might mean detox or getting past denial to seek help. Veterans-focused treatment programs help veterans cope with life but not while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They will get help for mental health issues, chronic pain relief, and seek resources that connect them back to veterans programs and services that help their specific needs. A facility that supports their mental, physical and spiritual health is going to transform their lives. The first step in recovery is hard but is worth taking if it means living a healthy, long life without substances. Treatment that provides trauma-informed care often works with veterans to look at their whole life in a holistic sense of mind, body, and spiritual challenges. If they are struggling with any part of these issues, they may not know how to respond to treatment. The goal is to provide a safe, structured space to offer opportunities for healing and let them decide how they will best manage their aftercare with proper support.

Forge is a place to come and recover your life from addiction. We help you reimagine what is possible and create the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Call us today: 1-888-224-7312