Wounded Veterans and Addiction

Wounded Veterans and AddictionWar and combat can cause fear and anxiety in even the most stable individuals. To people who are particularly vulnerable to addiction, it is even more threatening. It creates not only painful memories, but also psychological scars and diagnosable disorders, according to the National Center for PTSD. Returning veterans who are wounded must also cope with new physical challenges.

Stress and Substance Abuse

War and combat rank among the top most stressful life events. Therefore, war and combat put people at risk for abusing Xanax to self medicate. Researchers have long recognized the strong correlation between stress and substance abuse, particularly in prompting relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that even people with prolonged periods of abstinence are at risk.

Brain chemistry offers a partial explanation for this connection. The human stress response is mediated by highly complex connections between the central nervous system, adrenal system, immune system, and cardiovascular system. Stress increases the release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a hormone that catalyzes biological responses to stressors such as increased heart rate and metabolism. Most drugs of abuse also increase CRF levels; a fact that scientists say proves the connection between stress and addiction. Other findings cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse about that link include the following:

  • Individuals who are exposed to stress are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs or undergo relapse.
  • In animals that were not previously exposed to illicit substances, stressors increase vulnerability for drug self-administration.
  • Acute stress improves memory, whereas chronic stress impairs memory and possibly cognitive function.
  • An overlap exists between neurocircuits that respond to drugs and those that respond to stress.

The part of the brain that regulates fight or flight responses, called the amygdala, is also to blame. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it responds irrationally. It hijacks the individual’s ability to think clearly. For people in recovery who stay sober by making wise choices, this emotional takeover can impair judgment, making Xanax difficult to resist.

Safeguarding Sobriety

Sharpening tools you already have is one of the best ways to stay sober, regardless of the effects of war. Recovery is a process that requires effort. If attending a 12-step support group builds you up, consider doubling your meeting attendance. Keep a watchful eye on your self-care, and avoid becoming too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. Other ways to stay strong include the following:

  • Serve your community. Meeting the needs of others can raise your self-esteem and keep you too busy to use.
  • Reach out. Instead of isolating, stay connected by calling two friends in recovery every day.
  • Journal. Putting your feelings on paper is a strategic way to neutralize them so they do not lead you to use.
  • Make a gratitude list. No matter how badly you feel, identify ten things to be thankful for.

Experts at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health also advise active self-monitoring of mood changes, especially in the early days of return from combat. They recommend keeping a list of personal warning signs and also activities that generate positive feelings.

PTSD: A Major Enemy

Wounded veterans and others who have suffered from trauma often live with deep emotional wounds, even though the harmful event or situation that damaged them may have occurred years in the past. Untreated PTSD heightens vulnerability to addiction, partly because people who suffer from trauma sometimes self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to numb painful emotions.

Evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) usually appears within three months after the incidents occurred but sometimes emerges after many years. Symptoms include the following:

  • Frequently having upsetting thoughts or memories about a traumatic event
  • Having recurrent nightmares
  • Acting or feeling as though the traumatic events were happening again, sometimes called a “flashback”
  • Having strong feelings of distress when reminded of the traumatic event
  • Being physically responsive, such as experiencing a surge in your heart rate or sweating, to reminders of the traumatic event
  • Making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event
  • Making an effort to avoid places or people that remind you of the traumatic event
  • Having a difficult time remembering important parts of the traumatic event
  • Experiencing a loss of interest in important, once positive activities
  • Feeling distant from others
  • Having difficulty feeling positive emotions, such as happiness or love
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Being jumpy or constantly “on guard” as if danger is lurking around every corner
  • Experiencing insomnia

If an addiction flares, defenses against PTSD, such as coping skills and social support, often diminish. The best possible outcome can be achieved by seeking professional help from a facility equipped to treat both conditions.

When Tools Stop Working

At every stage—preparing to leave, active combat, and rejoining family—war can be overwhelming. When the pressure becomes particularly threatening to sobriety, professional treatment may be beneficial. Several therapeutic interventions have been especially designed to help individuals who struggle with addiction and stress. Relapse Prevention Therapy (RPT) is one. It works by boosting self-control and focuses on strengthening abilities to do the following:

  • Solve problems
  • Manage stress
  • Create social support

Additionally, RPT seeks to prevent relapse in the following ways:

  • Encouraging mindfulness through exploring positive and negative consequences of continued use
  • Teaching individuals to self-monitor by identifying high-risk situations
  • Developing strategies for coping with and avoiding cravings
  • Identifying strategies to avoid and confront triggers

Knowing what resources to draw on is one important way to maintain abstinence. A study supported by the American Psychological Association shows that people with a variety of coping strategies stay abstinent longer than other individuals with addictions. Although acute stress tempts some individuals who are overcoming addiction to grow complacent, it actually creates conditions that require even stronger determination.

Recovery from Xanax Addiction

If you or a veteran you love struggles with Xanax abuse, help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour support line can guide you to wellness. Don’t go it alone when help is just one phone call away.

Are you ready to seek treatment?

If you are ready to beat a Xanax addiction and start a new life in recovery then we can help. We have admission counselors standing by 24 hours a day to take your email, live chat request, or phone call to get you in the addiction treatment center that best fits your unique & specific needs.