Veterans Need Heroin Addiction Treatment Programs
Charged with protecting the country and its citizens, veterans endure harrowing scenes of battle and sacrifice normal civilian lives to ensure that their country remains safe.
When they return from deployment or retire from duty, re-entering life as it was before proves extremely difficult. A veteran must overcome obstacles in order to live a productive, safe life. Too often, though, substance abuse takes hold of a veteran’s life.
Heroin is an opioid, part of the class of drugs used primarily in medical contexts to relieve pain. There are drugs in this category that veterans come across in treatment for medical issues or injuries, instead of in an illicit situation. But when PTSD is in the mix, addiction can result quickly.
Research has shown that those who are prescribed opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin. Adapting to the impact these painkillers have on the body can cause a person dealing with chronic pain and discomfort, such as a veteran with PTSD, to seek relief even when they are not being prescribed an opioid medication.
This is where illicit drugs, such as heroin, come into play. Up to 60 percent of veterans returning from deployments suffer from chronic pain, and they return in the midst of America’s worst drug crisis to date. The combination leads to some devastating consequences.
The Role of PTSD in Addiction Treatment Centers
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, plays a significant role in leading to substance abuse among veterans. This diagnosis involves trouble sleeping and increased jumpiness in response to memories from a traumatic or extremely stressful event. Since they retain many painful occurrences, veterans deal with PTSD at varying levels of severity on a regular basis.
Veterans look for ways to cope with PTSD and its symptoms as these issues rob them of normal life. For example, they find it difficult to perform well at work on little sleep, and they operate under paranoia and worry due to jumpiness at a higher rate. Unfortunately, many times, veterans seek improper medication for these problems.
Effects of Heroin Use
While many may feel that it allows them to sleep and feel relief from other PTSD-related symptoms, heroin brings serious short- and long-term effects.
In the short-term, a user will feel a rush of euphoria, a reduced sensation of pain, and drowsiness. This is the feeling most who use heroin seek—dulling pain and making it easier to fall asleep—but once the body gets used to heroin’s effects, it produces many side effects that can be uncomfortable and dangerous.
For example, the body’s temperature can drop and respiration and heart rate can slow down. Confusion, nausea, and vomiting can also occur. From there, the long-term effects of heroin use can bring even more devastating issues, such as overall weakness, malnutrition, susceptibility to disease, and long-term sleeping issues.
While the effects of heroin differ in the short- and long-term, overdoses and fatalities can happen at any stage of use. Whether a veteran has been addicted for a long time or is just beginning use, they are at risk for an overdose.
How Do Veterans Heal?
A study completed about Vietnam veterans and heroin abuse revealed a lot about treatment for heroin addiction. While they were addicted to the drug during service, the soldiers were far less likely to relapse after treatment before returning home, as compared to heroin addicts treated stateside. Why the disparity?
addiction treatment for veterans that environment has a major impact on addiction. Because they left Vietnam, the veterans were no longer in the environment in which they used heroin. This shows that, in part, changing the circumstances in a person’s life and taking away the atmosphere that led to addiction can help pave the way for recovery.
The main problem is treating veterans’ chronic pain without turning to addictive opioids. While they report lowered opioid prescription rates and increased screenings for factors that could lead to abuse, Veterans Affairs officials recognize that the problem is far from solved.
VA centers in some areas have incorporated programs for mindfulness, yoga, and acupuncture as alternative treatment methods, and veterans often enroll in substance abuse treatment rehab programs in order to break their addictions.
Despite these efforts, veterans remain at risk for heroin addiction based on their unique combinations of PTSD, chronic pain, and medical opioid use. As professionals learn more about how they can be treated, veterans can look forward to better support and effective rehab after returning home