It is widely known that members of the military are just as susceptible, if not more, to substance abuse as their civilian counterparts. The stress of being deployed overseas and exposed to combat, coupled with the need to reintegrate back into society, puts veterans at an increased risk for substance abuse. In fact, prescription drugs are, for many veterans, the only treatment for the psychological and physical harm stemming from their wartime experience. Often these prescription pill addictions evolve into illicit drug addictions, taking those who sacrificed so much for this country from the warzone to the jail cell.

Find substance abuse programs available to veterans.

Further Reading

“Incidence of Drug Problems in Young Adults Exposed to Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” by Philip L. Reed, James C. Anthony, and Naomi Breslau, Archives of General Psychiatry (2007)


CONTEXT: Most estimated associations of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with DSM-IV drug dependence and abuse are from cross-sectional studies or from prospective studies of adults that generally do not take into account suspected causal determinants measured in early childhood.
OBJECTIVE: To estimate risk for incident drug disorders associated with prior DSM-IV PTSD.
DESIGN: Multiwave longitudinal study of an epidemiologic sample of young adults first assessed at entry to first grade of primary school in the fall semesters of 1985 and 1986, with 2 young adult follow-up assessments.
SETTING: Mid-Atlantic US urban community.
PARTICIPANTS: Young adults (n = 988; aged 19-24 years) free of clinical features of DSM-IV drug use disorders at the first young adult assessment and therefore at risk for newly incident drug use disorders during the 1-year follow-up period.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: During the 12-month interval between the 2 young adult follow-up assessments, newly incident (1) DSM-IV drug abuse or dependence; (2) DSM-IV drug abuse; (3) DSM-IV drug dependence; and (4) emerging dependence problems (1 or 2 newly incident clinical features of DSM-IV drug dependence), among subjects with no prior clinical features of drug use disorders.
RESULTS: Prior PTSD (but not trauma only) was associated with excess risk for drug abuse or dependence (adjusted relative risk, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.6-15.2) and emerging dependence problems (adjusted relative risk, 4.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-20.1) compared with the no-trauma group controlling for childhood factors. Subjects with PTSD also had a greater adjusted relative risk for drug abuse or dependence compared with subjects exposed to trauma only (adjusted relative risk, 2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.1-3.8) controlling for childhood factors.
CONCLUSIONS: Association of PTSD with subsequent incident drug use disorders remained substantial after statistical adjustment for early life experiences and predispositions reported in previous studies as carrying elevated risk for both disorders. Posttraumatic stress disorder might be a causal determinant of drug use disorders, possibly representing complications such as attempts to self-medicate troubling trauma-associated memories, nightmares, or painful hyperarousal symptoms. Read the full article.

“Among Some Veterans, Painkiller Misuse is Linked to Starting Heroin” by David Orenstein, Brown University (2016)

This article reports on the findings of a study that found that veterans who began to misuse prescribed opioid painkillers were at a very high risk of also beginning to use heroin. As a result, the authors recommend that health care providers who serve veterans “watch closely for signs of non-medical use of opioid painkillers.” Read the full article.

“Veterans Face Greater Risks amid Opioid Crisis “ by Sarah Childress, Frontline (2016)

This article discusses the prevalence of opioid addiction among veterans. The article also addresses how the VA merely issues a “laundry list” of medications to treat the veterans. This article also touches on the fact that the VA is taking steps to better monitor this pressing issue. Read the full article.