drug addiction

Are you a Veteran Addict? If so, this page is for you.

Are you a Veteran struggling with addiction? I know that many Veterans are returning from recent tours of duty and are addicted to drugs, either prescription opiates or street drugs. If you are one of these, please know that there is help available.

Let us look at the reasons for your drug use.
Whatever drug you are using, I am guessing that you are self-medicating to deal with some type of pain. That pain may be physical as with wounds or it may be emotional, as in PTSD. Possibly it is a combination of both. Perhaps you were a drug user before your deployment. Possibly you became addicted to deal with the realities of war. Whatever the reason you became a Veteran addict, you are using chemicals to help you deal with the pain you are suffering.

So next, let us take a closer look at emotional pain.
Emotional pain can be very hard to deal with on a number of levels. For one thing, no one else can see it. They might see changes in your behavior or attitude or ideas but there is nothing to tell any onlooker what your emotional pain is like.
Because our emotions are tied in with our every-day life, we cannot turn them off, so we have to find some kind of coping mechanism which allows us to still feel some emotions, such as what we feel for our family for example, while numbing the effects of the overwhelming emotions we do not want to feel.
By using drugs, we can in some measure, achieve some numbing of the painful emotions whilst still being able to function on another level.
The biggest problem with this way of coping is that, over time, it will take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Drugs also have a nasty way of changing the way your brain works. Some of that is reversible and some most likely is not.

What about other ways to cope?
The other way to deal with emotional pain is to add some coping mechanisms, which strengthens your ability to deal with the pain.

On this website, you will find several different ways that may help you to strengthen your coping skills.

One way is to try EFT. If you are not familiar with EFT, there is a short video about EFT and PTSD on my resource page. EFT, can work well for Veteran addicts, but please be aware that the video may cause flashbacks for you, so it is best to watch with someone else present if you feel you may be affected.

Another way to learn new coping skills is to be able to participate in a specific program like Rivers of Recovery, which is a pro-active intervention held in Utah. Founded in 2008 especially for Veterans, it has a great track record of helping Vets to overcome the effects of PTSD. You will find the link to their website on the Veterans resource page.

There are other ways to help lift this burden of emotions. Sharing with a group may help, and there are many different types of therapy available. Not all are available through the VA medical system, but some are inexpensive or free. For example, you can learn EFT by yourself if necessary.

Rapid Eye Technology is another little-known treatment which can be very helpful. Again details are on the Veterans resource page.

Virtual Reality (RV) is being tested at the DoD facility in Washington State. This hold great promise for dealing with trauma.

Also look into biofeedback/neurofeedback or acupuncture. Please try some of these alternative therapies to boost your coping skills, so that then you are more able to get away from the self-medicating of street drugs.

Now let us turn our attention to physical pain?
Physical pain is another reason Veterans are turning to the numbing effects of street drugs. Even though you may be given opiates, often times they are given in small amounts which are less than effective. I have known people in severe pain whose tolerance level for Morphine was much higher than the allowed dose. Are you turning to Heroin, for example, just to get relief from pain? Are you addicted to prescription opiates? Even though you needed them for immediate relief of your severe pain, there may be other way to deal with the pain that does not rely so heavily on these drugs.

There are a number of things you can try for pain relief other than medication, but you will have to experiment and see what works best for you. Usually it is a combination of medication and other therapies. Yes, it will take some work! No, you may never be completely pain free, but there are better ways than drugs whether they are street drugs or prescription drugs to help deal with pain.

Many of the things mentioned above will help. Have you tried a TENS machine, for example? (these are available through the VA)

Exercise can be very beneficial for pain control too. You may also find helpful information on my page for addiction to prescription medication.

Harm Reduction

While you are working on your coping skills, and preparing to get yourself off some of these drugs, please do some harm-reduction while using. Some drugs are more harmful than others. Some ways to use are more damaging than others. Try and remember these pointers.
    If you are injecting any drug, never share needles.
    Always use a fresh needle and clean you skin.
    If possible, use another method of use. Injecting carries major risks of infection. It also is a good way to break down your veins. The problem then is that if/when you need blood drawn or any kind of IV therapy, finding a vein may be next to impossible.
    In terms of damage to your body, injecting comes top of the list. This is followed by snorting, (meth destroys nose lining) and smoking, (crack damages lungs).
    If your drug of choice is meth, the safest way is probably ingesting it, in coffee for example.

    Also remember that all street drugs are mixed with, or cut, with other substances. These can vary from laxatives to talc powder to dry wall filler. Not something you want in your body.
    Please also know that all drugs will affect your brain to some degree and this will make dealing with the other things - PTSD for example - that much harder.

Finally, do not take this section on harm-reduction as approval of drug use.

While we understand the reasons, it is still not a good choice.
Drug use is an illegal activity, it causes financial problems, mental and physical health problems, and is not an excuse for criminal behavior.

Please use all the resources on this website to learn how to get off drugs. If you need someone to talk to regarding your use, or ways to get off drugs, please use my contact form. I am happy to talk with you and as always, there is no charge for Veterans or Service personnel.

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Copyright Vivienne Edwards/Angels on Wheels LLC; 2008 - 2009
This page updated 2013