Veterans face particularly difficult psychological issues when it comes to substance abuse. Often, there is more to their substance abuse than just being addicted. More than 2 of every 10 veterans that have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also have substance use disorders (SUDs).
In 2017, North Dakota had over 51,000 veterans. That’s about 6% of North Dakota’s overall population. While there are veteran centers in North Dakota, there are not many. For those who don’t live near these centers, getting there can be a challenge. For veterans, the biggest barriers to getting treatment for their substance abuse are:
- Lack of veteran facilities that allow children to accompany their parents
- Providers lacking knowledge of PTSD
These factors make it particularly difficult for veterans to receive treatment. Plus, the increase of drug trafficking in North Dakota does not make veterans’ situations any easier.
The History of Veteran Substance Abuse
Unfortunately, the career of a soldier can be highly stressful and lead to psychological troubles later in life. In fact, many veterans come home with PTSD, depression, and/ or traumatic brain injury (TBI), along with whatever physical injuries they may have gotten. Depending on the service era, anywhere from 10% to 30% of veterans return with PTSD.
Since 2001, over 1.6 million soldiers have been in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Deployments in these areas last longer than most, and the chance of redeployment is high. This is problematic because multiple deployments and longer deployments have been shown to increase veteran substance abuse disorders. This could be because those with other psychological issues turn to substances, such as alcohol or nicotine, to help cope with their emotions and thoughts.
Luckily, North Dakota has support available specifically for veterans. Veteran Affairs in North Dakota has veteran centers that help returned military readjust to life at home with mental health assessments, substance abuse assessment and referrals, and individual, family, and group counseling.
The Consequences of Veteran Substance Abuse
Veterans are put in rough circumstances. They go off to war, see and experience things no person should, return home with these new experiences, and have to figure out life as if everything is “normal”. However, none of it is normal.
As a result, many veterans return from deployment with poor mental health. As mentioned earlier, anywhere from 10% to 30% of veterans have PTSD. Many of these people with PTSD turn to drugs and/or alcohol to help cope. Depending on the drug a person is abusing, different short- and long-term physical consequences will have to be faced.
Consequences of Alcohol Abuse
Overtime, heavy drinking can lead to liver disease or liver cancer. The liver is a necessary organ, and without it, blood won’t clot properly and toxins will build up in the body. In simple terms: you can’t live without a liver. Alcohol abuse can also lead to ulcers, miscarriages, or having a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), among other things. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder causes developmental issues in children. They can be born with learning disabilities, poor coordination, vision or hearing problems, heart problems, abnormal facial features, and/or a multitude of other disabilities. While no mother intentionally wants to give their child these challenges, alcohol addiction can get the best of them.
Consequences of Methamphetamine Usage
Long-term meth use can cause paranoia, hallucinations, memory loss, dental issues, and even more. It can even be physically harmful for the user and those around them. At the end of a binge, users can become violent. In this state, they can become triggered by anything and can act unpredictably. Users in the past have set their homes on fire, destroyed appliances, and attacked others. This can be especially dangerous for users who have children or are children. Those who are “tweaking” probably don’t want to hurt anyone deep-down, but the intense discomfort of coming off a high can be unbearable for some.
While North Dakota does offer treatment centers to help veterans with mental health and substance abuse, there are not many. There are only three veteran centers in North Dakota; one in Bismarck, one in, Minot, and one in Fargo. If you are a veteran who lives in a more remote area of North Dakota, and you want to receive help from one of the veteran centers, you will have to drive yourself or ask a friend to help you get there. Further more, three centers for 51,000 people is not a great ratio. You may have to wait to receive treatment because of the potenital demand.
How Veterans Can Overcome Substance Abuse
Deployed soldiers face some of the toughest mental challenges we could ever imagine. Returning home after these experiences is not always easy. Often, veterans come back with PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues that play a part in veteran substance abuse. Many people who don’t know healthy ways to cope with their emotions turn to alcohol or other drugs to feel better or escape their mental struggles.
North Dakota does have services available to help veterans with their mental health and substance abuse problems. However, there are only three veteran centers in the whole state and a handful of veteran clinics around the state. There is one veteran center in Bismarck, one in Fargo, and one in Minot.
If you or a loved one are a veteran and struggle with substance abuse, do not worry. There is no shame in seeking help. We know this can be a stressful and confusing time, and that’s why we’re here to help. Give us a call at 701-380-5836. It would be our pleasure to help you get on the road to recovery.